Birds Diversions In the Great Outdoors Reading

Pigeons – part 1

So one of the books I took out is a little kids book so that was a quick read 😉 Still taught me something though – which wasn’t hard as I really didn’t know anything about pigeons – because I didn’t know that there is no real “breeding season” for pigeons, they can lay eggs at any time of the year.

Pigeon - City Safari
Yes, indeed, I read and I learned!

Q has a “common birds of the GTA” brochure and it says the pigeons in Toronto are mostly rock pigeons. He told me this fact while reading the Pigeons book pictured above – and then tried to argue that this counted as his “reading obligation” for the day. We’ll see about that!

Q calls pigeons “street chickens.” I think he must have heard that on youtube somewhere. Toby calls them flying rats. I mean, it’s not really their fault but I guess they have a bad rap.

This next book (also for ahem, middle schoolers) said they’re sometimes called feathered rats!


I learned that pigeons were once the symbol of Aphrodite – the Greek Goddess of Love.

But the shocking news to me was that pigeons are not native to North America! Although they can be found everywhere in the world (except Antarctica), they descended from the rock dove (columba livia) a species native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. So really – the pigeon’s we see? They’re all feral (wiki: – have I mentioned lately how much I love wikipedia? I really should have just started there but I really didn’t want to just rehash the wiki entry I wanted to see what I could learn; and it has three citations for calling pigeons “rats with wings.” Sigh)


There are almost 300 different species of pigeons! And most live in the tropics – I mean, given the option, wouldn’t you?

How lovely do these birds look? The Nicobar Pigeon pic came from a blog I found:

The Spice Imperial Pigeon is from


There are some common features of most pigeons/doves (apparently doves = small, pigeon = big; I’m just gonna use pigeon from now on): short necks and small heads; straight, narrow beaks.

And most eat small seeds and fruit though they are very adaptable to whatever can be found in their area. The mostly eat off the ground so long grasses and high crops are not their friends.


The colours can certainly vary – even among the feral pigeons. Here in Canada they’re mostly grey with some white, black or reddish/brown thrown in. In Hawaii though feral pigeons are mostly white; in England, mostly black.

I can’t really tell the difference between a UK and a Canadian pigeon though the Hawaiian one is pretty nifty:

I had forgotten that squab was pigeon. White Kings and Giant Runts are two breeds that are bred for food – an adult Giant Runt can weigh more than a kilo! And up to 1.4kg for a “prime example” (uhm 2.5 to 3 pounds-ish) A regular city feral pigeon is usually less than half a kilo. Or less than a pound.

Other breeds were selected for speed, or acrobatics – no seriously –

Then there are the breeds selected for looks – show pigeons! Fantails, Jacobins, Frillbacks, Capuchines and more. Here’s a screen shot after I googled “show pigeons.”

And then there are the homing pigeons: Aristotle wrote about pigeons being used as messengers and, according to Patent, the news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo arrived in England by carrier pigeon four days earlier than by horse and ship!

It turns out pigeons really are that smart. They actually do recognize the people who feed them – and some have even learned about impressionism!

Staying together in a flock is for protection – hard for a predator to target an individual. And when they’re all eating together, they’re picking their own stuff and leaving the rest for the others. So if you can picture a bag of bird seed: some will only eat the little dark round bits, another the long light coloured stuff, a third the huge seeds and so on. So they don’t compete against every other pigeon for their food. They kinda share it around. Equitable birds!

Okay, so the kid’s books taught me a whole bunch of nifty stuff. Now to see what I can get out of the other ones…