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…

Health Indigenous

Feeling uplifted

I was lucky enough to have seen a post from a shop I love that I found online that is owned by an Indigenous woman (Totem Design House) about an online session tonight with different speakers giving their perspectives on taking care of yourself building from Indigenous teachings and practises. I wanted to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh and clear.

While sponsored by Lift Collective – whose goal is to amplify, celebrate and connect Indigenous peoples – it was open to all peoples. There were five breakout rooms that the participants were moved around – we each got to experience three of them.

Listening to the amazing Brenda MacIntyre (she sang at the beginning and then I was placed in her room as well) reminded me how powerful music is. This was reinforced by Andrea Menard’s singing at the end and Erin Brillion’s (she owns Totem Design House) talk about traditional practises (one of the three rooms I was placed in). I know I have felt calmer and more peaceful on days that are windy enough to set my chimes going outside my window for example. And closing my eyes and really listening to songs is just so different than when I have it on as background noise.

I was also reminded about the importance of connecting with others and with nature (my first room was with Ashley Lamothe who spoke about collective care) – as sort of contrived as that might sound. Even something as simple as how enjoyable my morning coffee is when I have the time and energy to have it on the balcony. It never fails that people will look up from the sidewalk and return my smile! (Yes, in downtown Toronto! 😉) Or even just walking around the block instead of on the treadmill.

I recognized that not everyone can do these things. I know I am lucky to live in a safe place or near a big park or have private outside spaces. But try, just for a couple of minutes if you can, to get outside. To breathe deeply. To feel connected. Love you.

Diversions Get Crafty

Autumn Watercolour workshop

There’s a whole lot to complain about with social media. I know this. But I am also grateful for the friends around the world it enables me to keep in touch with and all the new people to become friends with.

So I started listening to the Ologies podcast I already talked about. Which meant I found the Ologies fans facebook group. Which lead me to join a couple of subgroups (books, parents, and crafts). Which has had me so inspired and motivated you cannot believe.

Someone recommended the Completely Arbortrary facebook group when I was trying to brainstorm ideas my kid and I could use to explore our local parks and trails “with a purpose” (which is highly beneficial to motivating The Mighty Q). So I joined that. And started listening to the podcast – which is terrific, BTW.

AND as a result I’ve been paying more attention to local opportunities to learn more about the outdoors… which led me to the Toronto Botanical Garden website. Which of course led me to their “Learn” tab. (seriously, can someone just pay me to keep learning stuff? Like random stuff that catches my attention, obviously not the continuing professional development that is required as a part of my actual occupation)

And so I signed up for an online class on autumn watercolour painting!

Oh gosh - I just realised I haven't even done a "how I fell into painting" blog post yet! It'll come - someday...

Anyway, I went over the list of materials and got everything ready – and because it’s me – easily a couple of hours before class actually began:

Painting supplies on a blue steamer trunk
Yes, my smaller supplies are in a whisky tin – reusing = cool 😉

Haven’t messed anything up yet…

White paper taped to a board

So the theme is obviously “autumn” and carrots are a good, easy shape to work with.

faint pencil outline of a carrot

I learnt a couple of things right off the bat – straight lines aren’t really “natural.” Carrots are wobbly. They don’t look like the letter V in real life.

Here’s the first layer of paints. I have some lovely orange from Annwin Arts so I was pretty excited to put it to good use!

Next layer – I was a little too heavy on the right-side of the carrot tops. This is when I learned my second big lesson of the night. Do not try to fix it. Just let it go.

What I did do was try and fix it. And tear the top layers of the paper in the process. Sigh.

It’s about here in the process that I yelled up to Toby:

Me: I’m so not good at this!
Toby: That’s why you’re taking a class.
Me: Oh, I don’t know that the class is gonna help
Toby: Are you having fun?
Me: Absolutely!

We also did a bunch of carrots – mine are still separate as opposed to a bunch together but I really like it.

Week 2 is going to be pumpkins!