I 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.