I have spent way too much time in my conscious life being annoyed by the mere existence of pigeons. It all started when I must have been 5-8 years old and in the zoo I, in one way or another, was shat on, on the back of my jacket. I do not dare state that it was a pigeon, but it raised my awareness of the dangers that one faces in the close proximity of particular animals, and, more importantly, when one walks UNDER trees with birds in it — as one does when one walks on many of streets in the city.
So why blame pigeons? Well, they seem to outnumber every other bird combined, on the streets and squares of any city I’ve been to. And they are rude… They walk up to you and snatch away edible anything you drop quicker than you realise you actually dropped something.
Anyhow, let’s get some facts in there.
- According to a pigeon control company in the U.S., the world population of pigeons is approximately 400 million and growing quickly due to urbanisation. There are supposedly 17 and 28 million birds in Europe. In addition to that, they leave huge amounts of droppings per year — about 11 kilograms (25 pounds)!
- The pigeon we see most of the time are the so-called “Feral Pigeon”.
- These pigeons tend to breed — up to six times a year — when there is an abundance of food. Well, in the city there is always plenty to go with, subsequently leading to the growing population of pigeons in urban areas.
- One can get a fine of up to £5000 ($75000) / 6 months imprisonment for intentionally killing a pigeon in the U.K.
Enough with the facts. I then found a website, which seems to jeopardise my firmly-held belief that pigeons are one of nature’s great mistakes when it comes to evolution.
This website on pigeon deterrents, tells us that in the 16th to 18th century, pigeon droppings were seen as a valuable resource in Europe. Going on to say that
Pigeon poop was a highly prized fertiliser and considered to be far more potent than farmyard manure. So prized in fact that armed guards were stationed at the entrances to dovecotes (pigeon houses) to stop thieves stealing it! Not only this, but in England in the 16th century pigeon poop was the only known source of saltpetre, an essential ingredient of gunpowder and was considered a highly valued commodity as a result. In Iran, where eating pigeon flesh was forbidden, dovecotes were set up and used simply as a source of fertilizer for melon crops and in France and Italy it was used to fertilize vineyards and hemp crops.
This same page talks about the wonderful lifesaving skills pigeons have… I particular settings more effective than human beings trying to do the same thing…
A team of navy researchers, however, has found that pigeons can be trained to save human lives at sea with high success rates. Project Sea Hunt has trained a number of pigeons to identify red or yellow life jackets when floating in the water. The pigeons were not only found to be more reliable than humans but they were also many times quicker than humans when it came to spotting survivors from a capsized or sinking boat. The pigeon can see color in the same way that humans do but they can also see ultra-violet, a part of the spectrum that humans cannot see, and this is one of the reasons they are so well adapted to lifesaving.
And some people truly love their pigeons…
A pigeon fancier has admitted running over a sparrowhawk with his car when he saw it trying to kill a pigeon.
Conclusion: I don’t like pigeons if they are either above or too close to me, but have to ‘admire’ their ‘intelligence’… Click on one of the pictures below to see an experiment by the Skinner Foundation of how bloody clever these birds really are. Perhaps that is why they are so ‘annoying’.
Oh, and the story behind never seeing baby pigeons?
— they tend to stay in their nest until developed/strong enough to do things on their own, usually that takes about a month