Rock doveI love pigeons. I am not talking about racing pigeons or wood pigeons, though I am fond of these as well, but of the common or garden feral pigeon, the familiar denizen of the city’s streets and open spaces. Most people seem to hate them though I think of this comes partly from unthinking acceptance of propaganda. It doesn’t help that the authorities call them “flying rats” and other pejorative names.

I am aware of the supposed reasons for hating pigeons. They do cause a mess when present in large numbers but is this mess really any worse than the mess left by humans and their pets? I would rather encounter pigeon guano than the human vomit, dog faeces and torn rubbish bags which so generously decorate our city streets. Pigeons supposedly cause disease but I have yet to meet anyone who has ever verifiably contracted a disease from a feral pigeon.

In any case, the pigeon “problem” is not caused by pigeons. It is caused by humans. Pigeons need food like any other creature and they find an abundance of food in the city simply because humans are such filthy untidy animals. Don’t shoot the pigeons: shoot the litter louts.

But I don’t really care about that. I love pigeons and my love is unconditional. Maybe if we called pigeons by their other name, rock doves, we might persuade a few more people to look at them thoughtfully and to realize that they are living creatures and very interesting ones at that.

I could give lots of reasons for loving pigeons but either you are a pigeon fancier, and you therefore know what is good about pigeons, or you are a pigeon hater, and you therefore won’t bother reading my panegyric. In any case, it is often hard to say why you love something. Why do you love your boy-or girlfriend? Your cat? Your laptop computer? Can you think of any feature or quality they have that is not shared by millions of others? Love isn’t because; it just is.

OK, a couple of things, then. The eyes. Have you ever looked – and I mean really looked – at a pigeon’s eyes? In a certain light they have a deep jewel like quality but a quality no jewel has: life. When a pigeon looks at you you know you are being looked at and being taken stock of. You cannot say that about any jewel, no matter how excellent.

Flight. Pigeons are fast fliers: not for nothing is there a racing pigeon fraternity; not for nothing were they used in times past to carry messages for the military and other critical services. When I see a pigeon take off, almost vertically from a standing position, something in me rises with it, almost like the feeling when you take off in a fast lift, a feeling of exhilaration and freedom.

I envy pigeons their three-dimensional lifestyle and certainly do not begrudge them it. Pigeons have a tough life but they are survivors and I admire their tenacity. A few people I know (including myself) could do with a dose of pigeon tenacity. It is no mean trick to live like a wild animal in the city.

In one of my jobs I had an office window overlooking the flat roof of another building and I used to watch the pigeons and their social interactions there for hours. There was I, earning my living by being tied to a desk for 8 hours a day and there they were, courting, playing and living the life of Riley without a commitment or a thank-you to anyone. Now tell me pigeons are inferior to people.

Not that it matters. I just love pigeons and that’s that.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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5 Responses to Pigeons

  1. Oscarandre says:

    Woody Allen makes a comment on pigeons in his film Manhattan (an intellectual attack on intellectuality). His character, talking about fidelity, says something like, “I gusss I am old fashioned. I think that when people mate they should mate for life – like pigeons and Catholics.”

  2. SilverTiger says:

    Is that a comment on pigeons or on Catholics? I suppose it could be on either or both, depending on your point of view.

    I suppose it could also be a comment on Woody Allen himself but in the negative sense.

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  3. caveblogem says:

    I have similar memories about pigeons from my first two “real” jobs (jobs where I sat at a desk instead of cooking things or hauling furniture or whatever). Both positions had windowsills where pigeons would periodically alight and I could stare at them (they didn’t interact much; perhaps they couldn’t see me).

    It is an interesting puzzle, how hated they are by some. And yet they have their fans. I think they have more fans than rats and cockroaches, the two other populous species of urban wildlife. Perhaps it’s knowing that although they could spread disease (who knows?), they don’t live under your floorboards. When you make a move toward them they take flight, non-threatening.

    I used to live in San Francisco and I felt the same way about seagulls, which the locals typically view as “flying rats.” In that city, and I imagine other coastal cities as well, like Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, etc., they have the same symbiotic relationship with the inhabitants.

  4. And I see the beauty of pigeons much more after seeing them through your eyes.

  5. SilverTiger says:

    caveblogem: I think people dislike what they are educated to dislike. For example, most people dislike mice and spiders and are even afraid of them yet they are harmless. For some reason, I don’t have this instinctive dislike of any animals.

    I love gulls too. When on holiday in Cornwall a few years back, I daily watched a pair of gulls who regularly visited a rock in the bay. I got to know them and their daily activities. When I returned to London I really missed them and I often think of them even now. Ever since, I have had a special love of gulls. Tigger and I watch their antics whenever we meet any.

    onemoreoption: Thanks for visiting. I’m glad you liked the post and hope you will find others to interest you.

    Email SilverTiger

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