Wednesday, 3 April 2013
Pigeons are amazing birds. They're obviously a bit of a pest, but that's because they are so successful, so robust, and so adaptable. Where crows are smart, pigeons are persistent. If a pigeon spots a sandwich crumb under your bench, no amount of kicking or hand-clapping is going to keep it away. If a pigeon decides your window-ledge is a good spot for a nest, then lots of luck persuading it otherwise.
Yes, they are "rats with wings" (in Woody Allen's phrase), but such wings! For all their apparent waddling bulk on the ground, once airborne pigeons are simply the best, exulting in their own speed and aerobatic prowess. It takes all the swift surprise of a stooping Peregrine Falcon to take down a pigeon in flight.
They also clearly have multi-faceted social lives on a par with rooks: they communicate with each other in what appears to be a complex mix of voice, gesture, and flight pattern. And if you've ever watched a male pigeon trying to court a female -- with much bowing, hopping, chasing, stylised spreading of wings and tail, plus time-outs for sulks and reconsideration ("Your beak she say no, but... Ah, and your tail she say no, too...") -- you'll know the true depth of a pigeon's persistence.
During the winter months, pigeons seem to develop a craving for ivy berries, and will go to amazing lengths to get at them. If you hear a flapping commotion up in the trees, the chances are it will be a couple of pigeons hanging upside down like parrots, or wobbling out to the ends of the thinnest twigs that will just bear their weight, wings spread and waving like amateur wire-walkers.
If only they didn't regard city-centre buildings as convenient cliffs, and bury the sky-facing architecture under tons of their disgusting guano, we might feel more charitable towards them. I have to say, they're also very tasty -- I had a delicious meal of fricasseed pigeon breasts in France a few years ago, though I doubt those were feral pigeons raised on fag ends and street debris.
btw, am I the only one to hear the Wood Pigeon's summertime cooing as "The whole world's watching, the whole world's watching, the whole world's watching ... now"? Hmm, thought so. But just you wait until they start up...
btw2, did you know that the publisher of Creative Camera was called the Coo Press because Colin Osman (founding editor) was also a racing pigeon fancier, and had worked for Racing Pigeon weekly?
btw3, according to his obituary, Colin Osman is alleged to have gone to Alleyne's Grammar School, Stevenage (my own secondary school) in its pre-WW2 version, something which I have my fact-checkers working on. A decade ago I bought a lot of excellent but well-used photo-books from Grace White, who may or may not have been Colin's widow. A number of these were signed gifts -- "To Colin from Fay", that sort of thing.
It all fits...