Rock doves

I love pigeons. I have said it before and I don’t mind repeating it. When I say pigeons, I mean wood pigeons, racing pigeons, feral pigeons and, in short anything that can reasonably be classified under the name “pigeon”.

What, exactly, do I like about pigeons? I like to watch them scurrying about, picking up crumbs, and shaking crusts to break them up for eating. I like watching them fly, especially when they take off so suddenly among the crowd that people duck and cry “Oh!”. I like watching the males puff out their chests and do their spinning courtship dance while crooning “rrrrooooo rrrrooooo”. I like that shiny eye that looks at you without blinking and the way their heads go back and forth as they walk.

I also love the fact that feral pigeons in town come in many difference coats and plumages. They remind me of the glass marbles or “allies” we played with as kids that were all different colours and patterns. Among pigeons, you have the sober grey and white standard, the city gent of pigeons; you have the brown ones; the white speckled and white marbled ones; some have shot-silk necks that flicker in different colours as they turn their heads.

Not everybody likes pigeons. In fact, some dislike them profoundly. I have heard people calling pigeons filthy and disease-carrying and calling them “flying rats”. They are not flying rats. They are pigeons. Rats are mammals and pigeons are birds. Ergo, pigeons are not rats.

Another name for pigeons is “rock doves”. That’s a rather pretty name, don’t you think? When you say it, you think of pigeons sitting on rocks, preening and crooning “rrrrooooo rrrrooooo”. In fact, they are just as happy doing that in trees, in pigeon lofts and on buildings in the city. They are very adaptable.

Maybe if more people called them “rock doves” it would make a difference. Why? Because when you call something familiar by an unfamiliar name, it makes you stop and think about it. For example, have you seen any conies lately? Conies are fluffy animals with long ears who browse in the corner of the field at evening. Ring a bell? Most people call them rabbits but calling them conies makes you stop and think.

If people were to stop and think about rock doves, they might realize something. The problem with pigeons is not a problem with pigeons; it is a problem with people. People are filthy creatures. The other day I watched a man take out a bar of chocolate, unwrap it, put it in his mouth and drop the wrapper on the pavement. And, do you know?, he was standing right next to a litter bin! That same man, and millions like him, probably also drops chips on the pavement and throws half-eaten burgers in the gutter. He and his mates probably get drunk on Friday nights and vomit their Indian takeaway onto the pavement next to the bus stop where the pigons come and eat it. Pigeons are partial to a nice curry.

So before you start complaining about rock doves and calling them “flying rats”, stop and remember who is to blame for the pigeon over-population: you are and people like you who drop litter, leave rubbish in plastic bags that can be torn open and, in short, behave like two-legged rats. (Actually, I refer rats. You know where you are with rats.)

Oh dear. This was going to be a panegyric about rock doves and it turned into an angry spat about people. I’m sorry. Not sorry for getting angry about people but because I would rather talk about pigeons than about filthy, disease-carrying two-legged rats.

So, as I was saying, I love pigeons. I have said it before and I don’t mind repeating it. When I say pigeons, I mean wood pigeons, racing pigeons, feral pigeons and, in short anything that can reasonably be classified under the name “pigeon”…

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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2 Responses to Rock doves

  1. emalyse says:

    My partner often teases me about my own sympathy for pigeons with a ‘there’s one of your pigeon sisters’ (I must have been a pigeon in a former life). I feel most empathy for the ones I see that have lost part of one leg and hobble around scavenging for food. A couple of pigeons (Bert and Ernie) visit our bird table some days but it takes ages for them to remember how to get from the table roof to table itself). I know that Mayor Ken classes them as winged vermin hence the attempt to ban feeding at Trafalgar Square (oh my youth).

  2. SilverTiger says:

    Damaged feet worry me too. I have seen one-legged pigeons and gulls apparently managing to survive but I imagine they have shorter lives than their two-legged brethren.

    Gulls and pigeons often get their feet tangled in twine or wire. This can be painful and ultimately fatal. A similar problem afflicts ducks, geese and swans because selfish fish-torturers (aka fishermen) leave lengths of fishing line on the banks of canals and rivers or throw it in the water.

    With regard to pigeon intelligence, it seems that my experience of seeing the pigeon run over at Poole is not unusual. Life is so easy for pigeons in the city that the stupid ones survive almost as easily as the clever ones. Every time a pigeon gets run over, it is natural selection in operation, so to speak.

    I hesitate to call any species “vermin”. If it multiplies to the point of becoming a nuisance, this is usually because of human activity. An example is the filthy state of our city streets which provide an abundance of food for pigeons or huge monocultures on farms that attract species that feed on them. The “vermin” problem is best solved, not by mass murder, but by controlling our own activities sensibly.

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