Cessen's Ramblings

2010 - 06 - 07

A Note About Pigeons

I've discovered a strange phenomenon here in Europe: people hate pigeons. They call them "rats with wings" (of course demonizing rats is also problematic), and I see people kicking at them and shoing them away. It was particularly distressing seeing a boy perhaps 8 years old trying to kick pigeons. (To be fair, most people ignore them rather than kick them, but still.)

Does this distain for pigeons also exist in the USA? I have not encountered it there.

This negativity towards pigeons has only distressed me more as I have gotten to know a few. I go out to the dock and feed several species of birds on a daily basis now, and it is easily the best part of my day. With the exception of the crows and herens, I've had at least one bird from each species eat directly from my hand at some point. It's really an amazing feeling.

But the pigeons have become particularly friendly, and a few of them will happily perch on me as I feed them. Two of them will even let me pet them, as long as I'm careful (their feathers are so soft!). One of them even perched on my head today for a brief moment. It's an extraordinary experience, having these birds trust you like that. Feeling their feet gripping on you, walking on you. The weight of their bodies.

And you can actually recognize different personalities in them as well. Certainly not the range or complexity of personality as you see in cats, for example, but it is clearly there. Some are braver, some are more timid. Some are nice, some are mean. Some wait patiently for more food, others will get impatient and nip at me in frustration. And after a while I've been able to recognize a few of the individual pigeons, so I know it's the same birds with these fairly consistent personalities. I've even named a few of them.

And having this experience with these pigeons, I really cannot fathom what people have against them. I mean, if you're worried about disease, okay. I guess I can understand that since some of them probably muck about in dirty places. But I've had little trouble with pigeons approaching me unless I'm feeding them. And even then, I had to build up their trust before they would come into physical contact with me. And I had to build up even more trust before they started perching on me.

Dunno. It just seems like a totally bizarre and unjustified hatred of these awesome animals.

I love pigeons.

(Perhaps in another post I'll say something about the other species of birds I encounter at the dock.)