© copyright 2007
by Lin Stone
kind of birds are those Grandpa?"|
"Pigeons, son. Plain old pigeons."
With all due respect to Grandpa's failing eyesight, there are no plain old pigeons on this earth.
Pigeons are kind of like snowflakes; it is hard to find any two of them that are just alike. Unlike your robin, or your jay or your scissortail flycatcher, pigeons strut around in thousands of different colors and patterns.
Pigeon lovers can readily identify up to 28 different color morphs! Most of these color morphs include beautiful shiny neck feathers that reflect different colors like rainbows. This shine is quite similar to that seen with hummingbirds and is called iridescence. Breeding pigeons for their distinctive colors and form can be almost as profitable as the breeding of distinctive koi.
Pigeons that are all white are usually albinos. That means, there are NO color pigments in their feathers.
The Bruner Pouter stands tall in any cote.
For a hobby some people raise all kinds of valuable pigeons. The breeds they raise have special names, such as rollers, Bruner Pouter, tumblers, and fantails. The names tend to describe the way the pigeons fly, or the way they look.
Pigeons are monogamous having only one mate for their entire life. They won't even look for another partner unless their first choice dies.
Like human beings, pigeons can see color. But pigeons are also known for their ability to see ultraviolet light -- part of the light spectrum that humans can't see. Pigeons can also hear sounds originating at much lower frequencies than we are aware of.
Pigeons generally weigh about a pound. Boy pigeons are usually
bigger than the girl pigeons they "marry." Pigeons in the wild
prefer to build their nests on covered building ledges, perhaps because they
resemble cliffs. You will also see nests inside barn lofts and on the
support structures under bridges along highways.
Both the boy pigeon and the girl pigeons sit on the eggs to keep them warm. They then work together to raise the little pigeons, known as squabs. When the baby pigeons are young they are called HATCHLINGS. Their food is brought to them already semi-digested by the parents. They open their mouths wide and the food is thrust down their throats.
After about thirty days of growing they get big enough to be called SQUABS. Squabs remain in the nest until they are almost completely grown. Some of them are bigger than their parents when they leave, but a life on the wing soon burns that excess weight off.
Have you ever noticed a blue jay or a sparrow take a drink? They dip their beak into the water, then throw their heads back to let it drip down their throat. But pigeons are so dainty they suck their water up their beaks as if they were straws.
Have you ever noticed a robin in the yard searching for worms? They
HOP from one spot to another. Pigeons will WALK, or RUN on the ground.
They do not HOP.|
In the air pigeons can fly up to 42 miles per hour. Some people have races to see who has the fastest pigeons. A typical race is about three hundred miles long and some are up to six hundred miles long.
During the race the pigeons have to fly fast, and avoid the hawks out there on the thermals looking for Happy Meals.
Your Merlin hawk (falcon) eats so many pigeons it used to be called a Pigeon Hawk. Red-tailed and Cooper's hawks are also eager to take a pigeon home for lunch.
It used to be that Americans thought pigeon meat was the very best tasting
meat on earth. Back in those days there was a pigeon known as the
It is estimated that back then there were as many as five billion Passenger Pigeons in the United States. The flocks they lived in were said to be up to a mile wide and three hundred miles long. It is easy to imagine a flock of this size having two billion birds in it.
Hunters would go out in droves to kill the pigeons and the bodies would be rushed to fancy restaurants where they would be prepared with fancy sauces. Like the buffalo, passenger pigeons were soon gone. Unlike the buffalo, they won't be back. Passenger pigeons are now extinct. A concerted effort involving thousands of dollars and scientific direction failed to keep the species alive.
The very last Passenger Pigeon ever saw alive was named Martha after Martha Washington. She died in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. She was frozen into a block of ice and sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C..
Now that Americans prefer to eat chicken the other kinds of pigeons are thriving. There is hardly a park anywhere in the world that doesn't have its share of pigeons. There are so many pigeons that many cities are declaring them a nuisance and trying to get rid of them by any means, fair or fowl.
Poison has been tried. Then there are coatings that people put on ledges so that pigeons don't want to stand there or roost there. In other areas the pigeons are captured in huge nets and hauled off into the country somewhere. Probably the best cure for the pigeon explosion is to begin capturing them for processing into dog food or cat food. They could also be shipped to foreign countries where poor people are starving.
Pigeons can cause serious damage to the concrete structures of our
overpasses and bridges. They can spoil the appearances of buildings.
The smell and mess they leave behind can cause a nuisance on people and
statues of famous people.
On top of that, pigeons can carry potentially infectious diseases such as
salmonella, tuberculosis and ornithosis (a mild form of psittacosis -
Wild pigeons can also carry viruses that can be spread to other birds causing their death.
Pigeon Ranking can be FUN!
|Pigeon watching, and pigeon study, is a wonderful hobby that
anyone in the world can take up with ease. You probably won't
even need a pair of binoculars. Search your neighborhood, looking
for pigeons that gather in flocks and are accustomed to people. If a
flock is fed on a regular basis, it should be easy to approach. Find
a place to stand or sit close to your pigeons. If you cannot get
close to them you can always create your own
First, you will want to stick to a feeding schedule. That way the pigeons will know when to expect you and your food. Pigeons are so smart they can tell time quite well and will be there on the dot for their handout. You will want to keep notes on the colors and the kinds of pigeons that come to your station. New pigeons are especially interesting. Where did they come from? Who told them you were there? What kind of language are they using?
Raising pigeons is fun too, and it can be lucrative if you are good at it. In days gone by it used to be against the law for a common man to own pigeons. No wonder some people feel like a King or a Prince when they begin to raise pigeons.
Unlike wild pigeons, domestic pigeons are raised in healthy environments and if given the chance, will bathe every day. However, studies have proven that raising pigeons is no more of a health risk than raising any other kind of bird. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after handling any birds.
You can raise your pigeons in "lofts" or pens. Anything that provides your pigeons with a dry, draft free environment and room to move around in will work. The important thing is that the birds are protected from the elements while providing some much needed sunlight. To ensure that the birds are not overcrowded, allow at least two square feet of floor space per bird. This will help to build a comfortable and healthy environment and will allow the birds to flourish.
Nests can be furnished, or you can simply supply the building material and let them build their own. Pigeons will want their nests hidden so you will want to provide dark corners or boxes for them to hide in.
Domestic Pigeons are Pedigreed and should be cared for just like thoroughbreds. One pedigreed pigeon recently bought for $132,517.00 by Louella Pigeon World. The three-year-old, one pound racing pigeon beat 21,000 other birds in a major long distance race and will some day be used as a breeder just like it was a racehorse. The previous record price for a racing pigeon was $73,800.00
About the author: Independently less than wealthy, Lin Stone is an author, writer and photographer 3262 Watergate Road
Clinton, Arkansas 72031 His writing has appeared in almost one hundred national magazines and Browzer Books has published seven of his books so far with more in the works. He writes about anything from the waterfowl of Arkansas to the Monsters of Moab. Robbers Cave is probably his favorite resort. The article has dozens of terrific photos illustrating the action and terrain.
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