Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wild Wildlife: The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name

I don’t care who knows it: I adore pigeons—their beautiful slate-and-cool-grey plumage, their striking orange eyes, their iridescent neck feathers that glimmer like geodes with purple and green. I’ve endured enough taunts about my fondness from people who argue that pigeons are filthy, stupid, and enormous pests, and yet I still don’t understand why more people don’t appreciate them, especially since the arguments against pigeons are so unreasonable.
Filthy? Pigeons are no dirtier than any other bird species; they may be in a better position than some species to transfer mites to humans, but it’s a rare bird in the wild that’s not a vector for something. And, again, the argument is specious, since we all ooh and aah over adorable deer—even though we know they’re seething with tics that carry Lyme disease.

Stupid? Compared to what? Maybe they’re not problem-solving geniuses like ravens and crows, but pigeons can recognize and distinguish between the work of various impressionist painters, which is more than most people can do. And since when has the subject’s intelligence influenced our enjoyment of animal life (do you think peacocks or gazelles are especially brainy?)—or, for that matter, our response to politicians?

As for being pests—we revile pigeons because they’re able to adapt to an urban world we’ve created and live in—we’ve set up a double standard in which any animal that can live in our cities is automatically reviled, even though we live there. And yet for some reason we still find squirrels cute in spite of their penchant for living in attics or garages and eating bulbs, flowers, and garden crops.

So for those of you who are already admirers of pigeons, well done! And for those who have spoken badly of them, I urge you to reconsider. Once you get past your original prejudice, they’re a lot of fun to watch.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}


pattinase (abbott) said...

It will take some convincing to get me to like pigeons.

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

I'm with you, Olivia. Pigeons are so soft and gentle appearing and they come in such lovely colors.

Anonymous said...

I love pigeons. It's only the States, where people hate cities, that they hate pigeons. Europeans consider them part of the urban lifescape. This past summer, in Paris, the only humans tormenting pigeons were American children and three Italian adolescent males, where the word "human" is not yet applicable.

biobabbler said...

And the male pigeons could teach some people a thing or two about courting & dance & putting on an impressive display for a comely female. =)

I agree, I think they're beautiful and when people talk about animals being "dirty" I think it's a) somewhat silly, b) not accounting for the fact that they have to poop outside! What do you expect? I think they're lively and their entertainment value & inherent value as living creatures on the planet greatly outweigh any paltry price of cleanup. =)

Stav said...

Beautiful photos! The second to last one has such a determined look on its face - reminds me of the Pigeon: Impossible short movie (

p.s. Hi Olivia! I've been reading here regularly for some time and decided it's time to de-lurk.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

Wow, this post really prompted a flurry of commentary! I'm glad to see that most of you were already convinced of the beauty of pigeons; as for you, Patti--I'll see what I can do to win you over.

(And hi, Stav! Thanks for de-lurking!)

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