This much maligned bird has served humans well for thousands of years, carrying messages informing the ancient Egyptians about flood levels along the Nile, bearing news of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and saving thousands of soldiers' lives during the two world wars.
Today pigeons are found everywhere, from the queen of England's luxurious racing pigeon lofts to the garbage-strewn streets of every large city.
Pigeons are gregarious little devils, easily domesticated and capable of flying for hours at speeds of more than 100 mph. And what have you done lately?
The Rock Dove is a member of the bird family Columbidae, doves and pigeons. The bird is also known by the names of feral pigeon or domestic pigeon. In common usage, this bird is often simply referred to as the "pigeon".
photo by chinycjo
Above, the most beloved of New York City fauna, The Rock Dove, known to most simply as "The Pigeon", sits proudly perched atop the Empire State Building with the world before her wings.
Above: We may think their natural habitat is in parks and roaming the streets of New York looking for food but in fact the Rock Dove's natural habitat is on the majestic sea cliffs on the coasts of western and southern Europe, North Africa and into Southern Asia.
Its domesticated form, the one we know and love around New York, the feral rock dove, has been widely introduced elsewhere, and is common, especially in cities, over much of the world.
They find the ledges of high buildings a perfect substitute for sea cliffs, and have become abundant in cities all over the world.
a monkey perched in Central Park wishing she was on a sea cliff somewhere warm
As a result of the continuous food supply, pigeon courtship rituals can be observed in urban parks at any time of the year. Males on the ground initially puff up feathers at the nape of the neck to increase their apparent size and thereby impress or attract attention, then they single out a female in the vicinity and approach at a rapid walk, often bowing as they approach.
Marcel, kiss me you foolFemales invariably initially walk away or fly short distances, the males follow them at each stage. Persistence by the male will usually eventually cause the female to tolerate his proximity, at which point he will continue the bowing motion and very often turn full- or half-pirouettes in front of the female. Subsequent mating when observed is very brief with the male flapping his wings to maintain balance on the female. Sometimes the male and female beaks are locked together!!!
Nests are rudimentary as for the wild doves and pigeons. Favourite nesting areas are in damaged property. Mass nesting is common with dozens of birds sharing a building. Loose tiles and broken windows give pigeons access – they are remarkably good at spotting when new access points become available, for example after strong winds cause property damage.
Pigeons are particularly fond of roof spaces containing water tanks. On undamaged property the gutters, window air conditioners, chimney pots and external ledges will be used as nesting sites.
You know those beautiful white doves? The ones associated with the concept of peace and pacifism? The ones you wanna have flying at your wedding? Yeah, those are just white pigeons. The same pigeons you hate because they make a mess under your air conditioner in the summer and shit on your car, are the ones you adore. Assholes.
Rock dove selectively bred for their ability to home over long distances, called homing pigeons, have served in times of war as war pigeons, and have even been awarded war medals to honour their services to humanity.
A rock dove named G.I. Joe received the medal for his role in preventing the bombing of an Italian village of over 1,000 people back in the day.
"what the fuck, no food? this park sucks. Must be Connecticut"I highly suggest you read: Andrew Blechman's awesome book, "Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird". It's a quick and interesting read.