two books about pigeons

A Pigeon and A Boy, by Israeli novelist Meir Shalev, is about the relationship between two handlers of homing pigeons. It was an enjoyable story, and in addition enabled me to understand the significant role that homing pigeons have played throughout history, as messengers.
OK - so the pigeons in my garden may not be homing pigeons, but I like to think of them as close cousins, and worthy of respect. Like possums, pigeons badly need advocates to correct the widespread dislike and scorn they endure.

In his book Pigeons: the Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird, Andrew Blechman tells us everything we ever wanted to know about pigeons and the people who obsessively love and hate them.
It was Woody Allen who popularised the idea of pigeons as flying rats, in his 1980 film Stardust Memories. He saw a pigeon in his apartment and panicked.
“It’s not pretty at all. They’re, they’re, they’re rats with wings! …It’s probably one of those killer pigeons … You see? It’s got a swastika under its wings.”
Blechman explains the widespread hatred of the urban pigeon. It’s all to do with poo. Pigeons gather in large flocks in cities. City buildings provide them with nooks and crannies for nesting, and there’s plenty of leftover food scraps around for them to eat. So they live comfortably and the droppings just keep piling up. And up.
Some statistics: “The average pigeon produces over twenty-five pounds of droppings a year. At some urban nesting sites, the accumulated crap can be measured in tons.”

So because of this situation
“the peaceful coexistence between man and pigeon, which lasted for thousands of years, has deteriorated into a war of attrition. The urban pigeon, regardless of its remarkable past and incredible physiology, is now considered a feathered outlaw.”
Seen like this, the problem is one we gardeners are keenly aware of - and blog about often: how to look after our wildlife, maintain biodiversity in our cities, suburbs and rural areas, and work out a balance between their needs and ours?
Would any of you non vegetarians out there care for a slice of (sustainably sourced of course) pigeon pie?


  1. Welll.... I'll pass on the pie. ;-) I don't mind pigeons, but I really don't see them where I live anyway.

  2. The "beautiful" people out there always blame the ones who can't answer. A swastika under its wings, did he think that was funny?Many years ago I have brought up a pigeon baby. It would fly with the girls when they went riding. It flew with me when I went out with the car, side by side. It was so most beautiful bird, her name was Purdy. I will write about her story in my blog Underahottersun. I also love all the native doves and pigeons.
    The cane toad is blamed for its toxicity towards native animals. It's the people who brought her in that are at fault. The foxes, the rabbits all are brought in by people and now the animals suffer and have to pay for the mistakes.
    Sorry, that I am ranting again, but I just had to say it.

  3. I have nothing against pigeons except the fact that they eat three times more than other birds on the bird table!
    City pigeons tend to be scruffy and have damaged feet so I suppose a flock of them can look rather unattractive - especially to people who rarely get a glimpse of wildlife and when they do start complaining about dirt and noise etc.

  4. Well, clearly there's a need to repackage the pigeon droppings as a valuable compost resource. It's all in the spin.

    I don't think Woody Allen was the originator of the "pigeons as flying rats" idea, I think he just expressed it. My mother, who lived in NYC in the late 1940s, made the comparison when she took my sister and me into the city in the 1960s. I always wondered why she spoke of them so disparagingly, since she liked wildlife in general, and because I secretly thought the pigeons were pretty. Her claim was that they carried disease.

  5. Hi Titania, I agree with your "rant' about pigeons and other wildlife introduced by humans and then hated. I wrote a post earlier about a friend of mine who like you had a passion for pigeons.

    Pomona, you would make a good PR person for pigeons - they need you! Pigeon poo is like guano, great compost.

  6. Shady, thanks for your visit. I don't blame you for passing on the pie - especially when I read your post about your tea party!

    Easy, I guess they are very determined critters, despite scruffiness and lack of popularity.



Post a Comment