Pigeons are the peregrines’ favorite food so this snapshot from the Pitt peregrine webcam made me laugh out loud. What the heck is this pigeon doing in the nest of his mortal enemies?
Pigeons nest on cliffs just like peregrines so they’re used to having predators nearby but this is way too close. I’ve never seen a live pigeon in the peregrines’ nest, so what’s up?
I have a theory.
Last year the University of Pittsburgh cleaned the Cathedral of Learning and found pigeon nests in every nook and cranny. When the cleaning was finished they pigeon-proofed the building with netting and spikes. This spring the pigeons have far fewer places to nest so this pair is desperate enough to try the beautiful nest ledge provided for the peregrines.
If you click on the pigeon picture you’ll see a slideshow of the pigeon and his lady checking out the area. They leave abruptly when… Well, you just have to see the slideshow.
For birders, pigeons are on the borderline between wild and tame, pests and pets. They willingly live off our food scraps yet we vaguely feel there’s something wrong with this even though we feed backyard birds.
Now there’s a book that tells us how pigeons got to where they are today and what special traits this has given them. Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird, by Andrew D. Blechman.
The saga began when humans domesticated the rock pigeon over 5,000 years ago. Since then we have widely divergent relationships with these birds: from pigeon fanciers to pigeon shooters, protectors to poisoners, pigeon racers to compulsive pigeon feeders. Blechman’s book delves into it all.
He also describes how:
• Pigeons are naturally even tempered. They do not bite or attack. This made them easy to domesticate and it’s why them seem tame.
• Racing pigeons fly non-stop more than 500 miles at more than 60 miles per hour. This is even more amazing when you consider they are trucked to the starting point – a place they have never seen – and within minutes they figure out where they are and where home is. Then they fly home immediately without stopping for food or water.
• Pigeon hating is a relatively new sentiment, promoted by “bird control companies.” For instance, if you use Google to search for this book online, the advertising links are all pigeon control companies.
• A 100% guaranteed, permanent pigeon control method was invented in Europe and, amazingly, involves providing them with nests.
After you read this book you won’t think the same old way about pigeons any more.
It snowed here all day until sunset. By lunchtime there was more than an inch of snow. Over at Pitt the only birds I saw were pigeons and they were doing something unusual. They were foraging on the sidewalk instead of on the grass.
I pay attention to pigeons because they are the peregrines’ favorite food. A scared flock of pigeons often alerts me to the presence of the peregrines. Today it was apparently too snowy for the falcons to hunt so the pigeons were safe out in the open.
But why were they on the sidewalk? It finally dawned on me. The sidewalk was the only snow-free area where they could see potential food. Perhaps they were eating the de-icing salt.
The snow was beautiful, but it’s a pretty quiet birding day when the best bird is a pigeon eating rock salt.