Tag Archives: birds

Pigeons

“Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue.” ~ Dilbert [Scott Adams]

Lately I have noticed quite a few pigeons hanging around my yard. Pigeons can be found nearly everywhere, in cities and small towns. They are bred in captivity as performers, messengers and pets. Varieties exist which have been bred for various physical characteristics as show birds.

While I have always loved to watch tumbling pigeons, and admired homing pigeons for their incredible built in “gps” and the ability to fly great distances to return to their loft, I am not sure how I feel about these wild pigeons suddenly crowding my feeders and wandering around my yard.

 

Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent bird species. It is the only non-mammal species that has the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. They see in color, and also see the ultra violet spectrum that humans cannot. These amazing birds have demonstrated an ability to recognize people in photographs and to differentiate between different people in them. They are able to recognize all of the letters of the alphabet.

In both world wars pigeons were used to carry messages from the front lines. They have been used on ships to carry messages in the event of a u-boat attack. Project Sea Hunt, a team of Navy researchers have found the birds to be very good at seeing red and yellow life jackets, making them ideal for search and rescue in the water.

Pablo Picasso, the famous artist, loved pigeons so much that he named his daughter Paloma, which means pigeon in Spanish.

Some religions (muslims, sikhs, hindu) feed pigeons as a religious practice, believing that the birds carry their prayers, and as an act of caring for their deceased ancestors. In christianity the birds are a symbol of the holy spirit and of peace.

Pigeons mate for life, and can breed as many as 8 times in a single year, usually having two young each time. The young are known as squabs, and are considered a delicacy in many places in the world.

Today, pigeons are considered a pest species. Being prolific breeders and opportunistic scavengers, a small flock can reproduce quickly and become a large problem.

“The only difference between a pigeon and the American farmer today is that a pigeon can still make a deposit on a John Deere.”  ~ Jim Hightower

Pigeon droppings in particular pose a problem. Wild pigeons are known to carry a variety of diseases, three of which can harm humans. These are not your simple flu bugs either. Diseases such as histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis and psittacosis can lead to seizures, blindness and even death.

In 2011, Erica Richards, a 23 year old Fredericton, NB woman contracted cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal disease carried in the feces of pigeons. This form of meningitis attacks the brain and the spine causing swelling and often death. After weeks spent in the hospital undergoing treatment, Ms Richards did survive, but is now blind as a result of the illness.

While I love pigeons, and find them fascinating and beautiful, I am wary of their potential as a pest and carrier of disease.

Various techniques for getting rid of pigeons exist, from birth control and live traps to shooting them. Some places have introduced peregrine falcons, a natural predator of the birds to help eradicate them. I can’t imagine going to these lengths for the dozen or two that are hanging around here, but I am considering getting an owl statue in an attempt to scare them away.

Baby pigeon said, “I can’t make it; I’ll get too tired.”

His mother said, “Don’t worry; I’ll tie a piece of string to one of your legs and the other end to mine.”

The baby started to cry.

“What’s wrong?” said the mother.

“I don’t want to be pigeon towed!”

 

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Birds Eye View

 

 Voyeur  –  voi-yur  – nounan obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects.

Of all the many incredible and wonderful uses of technology, nest cams must certainly be among the most enjoyable. We live in an age when one can literally manage their entire life without leaving the house. It should come as no surprise then, that we have reached the point where it is possible for the general public to observe up close and personal, the goings on in the natural world, through well placed cameras which stream their content live 24 hours per day.

Every spring, during the nesting period, cameras are set up near known nesting sites and the observation begins. Universities, organizations and even the general public are able to share their nest cams with anyone who is interested. This year, there are a number of nest cams that I have been watching.

 

Great Blue Heron Nest Cam

The great blue herons nest is in a large dead oak tree in sapsucker woods in the middle of a pond. The tree has stood for over fifty years, and this particular pair of herons has been nesting there since 2009. Each year the pair have raised four young, and this year they have two eggs so far, and we hope, more to come.

 

Red Tailed Hawk Nest Cam

“Big Red” and “Ezra” are a pair of red tailed hawks who have been nesting on a light pole 80 feet above Cornell University’s athletic fields for four years now. The pair is banded, and estimated to be approx  6 and 9 years old. Currently there are three eggs in the nest.

 

Hummingbird Nest Cam

 This nest contains two tiny hatchlings. The nest itself is only about an inch and a half in diameter. Mom has been happily sitting on the nest, but frequently zips away to grab some food, so it is very easy to get a look at the young.

 

Peregrine Falcon Nest Cam

 In Columbus Ohio, the Dept of Natural Resources has placed this nest cam near the nest of a pair of falcons. The camera is accompanied by a blog which contains important updates and significant events, as well as various video clips and still photos.

Bald Eagle Nest Cam

This fantastic cam features a full view of two young eagles in the nest. The pair are still fluffy grey balls of downy fuzz, and the proud parents are working around the clock. The moderated chat is very informative and the site contains a wealth of information on the study and conservation of Bald Eagles.

 

It is interesting to note the sheer number of people logging in to check on the status of these nests. Some contain chats that run simultaneously beside the video, and the same names tend to pop up again and again.

Through these cameras we are able to see the entire life cycles of various species, from egg, to parents. We learn about nesting behaviour, courtship, mating, egg laying, pipping, fledging and more, all with a birds eye view. The birds don’t appear to notice, or care about the presence of the cameras. Having some foreign equipment suddenly appear at their nesting site has not discouraged them.

While watching nesting cameras is not a sport for the impatient soul, many feature additional previously recorded clips of major events, such as egg laying and pipping that can be watched after the fact for those who missed it live. Most camera watchers check in periodically to catch updates and see how things are going.

I can’t think of a better way to enjoy my morning coffee.

“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

 

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