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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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