I love Pigeons, so much.
I have heard many negative descriptors in reference to the humble Pigeon; most often they are called “flying rats”. People say that they are pests or the more pretentious offenders will go on and on about how in Europe they loiter in such large numbers that they are ruining cities and are accused of carrying diseases. I haven’t been to Europe but from what I hear tourists cause similar problems, so why single out birds who have no idea what they are doing?
I am here to spread some of my endless love for this funny, harmless, awesome creature so that maybe people will view them differently.
My personal love of pigeons began initially as a part of my constant adoration of all living things (minus mosquitos, silverfish or any insect that looks like a nightmare, I’m a real bugist sometimes). I became more enthused one day sitting in a park and watching a flock of them. They just ambled about not bothering anyone looking all extra adorable. They always look confused and a little blank, which I find sweet and endearing. It is as though they never quite know what is going on, but they don’t care, they will hobble on anyways.
If you walk or drive towards a pigeon they will pick up their pace and run to get out of the way, which is way more than I can say for most pedestrians I wave across the street. They don’t want to be a bother, they coexist in a benign manner, so why all the animosity?
I decided to do some research on my bobble necked friends.
Everyone thinks doves are great right? Well big news— doves and pigeons are the same family. The only differentials are size and color, but they share the same makeup otherwise. So liking doves and hating pigeons is racist. Hear that? RACIST.
The Columbidae (yeah, I know latin) have incredibly strong wings with the muscles alone making up 31-44% of their body weight. This makes them one of the best fliers in the entire animal kingdom. That’s badass if you ask me. If I met a guy who had arm muscles that were 44% of his weight I would be in awe– terrified, but still super impressed. I certainly wouldn’t mess with him.
Still not dazzled? What if I said that there have been over thirty pigeons who have been awarded medals for their contributions in wartime. I haven’t been given any such honor so I can say that those birds are in fact better than me. If I was asked to carry a message through fields of battle I would attempt to maybe text the information, but if there wasn’t any wifi or cell service, I’d give up and leave immediately. Harry Potter had Owls deliver messages, but in the real world, pigeons can actually be trained to do that. Friggin magic.
Now I have to talk of course about the classic head action the Pigeon is known for. In my reading I found the best information ever: it is thought that the pigeons classic head-bobbing is due to their needing to keep their vision constant. In a 1978 experiment by B.J. Frost, the scientist placed the birds on treadmills and with consistent surroundings the bobbing ceased. So I now have the information that I could see a Pigeon walking without moving his head at all, I feel like that is the equivalent of seeing a gerbil perform karaoke (ok, maybe that’s a stretch but I have never seen either so they remain in the same category).
How can I get a Pigeon on a treadmill in a humane way so I can see this?! I am adding this to my lifelong to do list, above gaining the unending trust of a squirrel but below hugging a willing chicken.
Maybe the popular distaste for these avian critters comes from not knowing enough. Usually when someone doesn’t like me it is just because they haven’t gotten to know me yet. I can understand the fear of diseases, but I have caught more illnesses from people than pigeons. I haven’t heard of any cases of birds with ebola or chlamydia but I do feel a risk of catching those things from a human, it doesn’t mean I dislike everyone. Also, maybe as a general rule: don’t hug, kiss, shake wings with or otherwise touch wild birds. Seems easy enough, no?
Pigeons are way cool once you get to know them.