Hey guys! So, throughout the course of this blog, we’re going to come to birds that are…. less than celebrated. Of all the birds that even birders often overlook or discount, there’s probably none more disliked than the pigeon. I remember as a kid heading to downtown Cleveland with my parents and seeing this strange looking grey bird. “That’s a pigeon,” my dad said. I thought it weird that I only ever saw them in the city. I mean most other birds don’t let people get as close to them as a pigeon does, and there’s no trees around for them. Of course, as I got older I learned that not all birds nest in trees, or really use trees all that often.
Even after I began birding, I still never paid much attention to the pigeon, save for the occasional oddly colored one. I once saw one that was almost completely checkered black and white! Let’s face it, the pigeon has a bad reputation. One that isn’t helped by the fact that they are some of the messiest birds (have you ever seen a pigeon nest!) They eat trash, they supposedly carry all sorts of diseases, and they crap on our statues, as well as us! Now, I’m not going to try and change anyone’s mind about them, but I will say this. It’s not really their fault. They didn’t choose to come and colonize our cities. That’s right, for those of you that don’t know, the pigeon (actual name Rock Pigeon, or Rock Dove) isn’t native to North America. The Rock Pigeon comes from Europe and as the name suggests, outside of cities they prefer rocky cliffs, such as those found in Scotland. Pigeons are certainly more of a nuisance to humans than other birds, as they haven’t shown to have much of a negative impact on other species, and in fact make up part of the diet for a number of raptor species including Peregrine Falcons and Red-tailed Hawks.
Speaking of which, my most memorable experiences with pigeons have actually been watching a raptor eating one. Admittedly, that’s more of a story for the Red-tailed Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk posts. I think about the only positive thing I’ve heard anyone say about the pigeon is my former colleague at Central Park, Chris. He made clear he wasn’t a fan of them anymore than most, but had to admit that they look very pretty in flight. Ok, Chris, I’ll give you that one, their flight silhouette is pretty damn nice. But it just illustrates how little most birders pay attention to a so-called nuisance bird. In fact, in all my time birding in cities, I’ve never even taken a picture of a pigeon. But I want to include pics here as much as possible so I reached out to my good friend Marieke to provide this post’s pictures. You can check out more of her stuff here. And check back next time when I talk a bit about the pigeons smaller, North American cousin, the Mourning Dove.