By Vern and Lori Gieger
have all heard the expression “don’t judge a book by its
cover.” When it comes to pigeons, truer words were never spoken.
Pigeons are special birds, contrary to what many people think, that
pigeons are dumb, ugly or dirty. None of this is true. Have you ever
noticed the confident way that pigeons coo and strut? Well, check out
They have worked for the Reuters News
Agency; Reuters operated a live telex service using Homing Pigeons in
the mid 1800s. Pigeons have served their country as well. They have
flown in many wars, including both WWI and WWII. Pigeons achieved a
98% success rate in the missions flown in WWII, despite enemy fire,
and often with mortal injuries to themselves.
In the World Wars, pilots carried pigeons in case they had to abandon
their plane, they would release the bird for help. Many pilots owe their
lives to a pigeon. Pigeons proved valuable in the Gulf War, as their
messaging was not affected by the electronic jamming. Recently they
have been proposed to be used by Project Sea Hunt (U.S. Coast Guard)
to spot life-jackets out in the open sea.
Advanced studies at the University of
Montana conclude: “Pound for pound, the pigeon is one of the smartest,
most physically adept creatures in the animal kingdom.”
Their physical make-up and behavior is impressive.
Pigeons come in many color variations and feather patterns. Did you
ever notice their shiny, rainbow-like neck feathers or their bright
red feet? They are unlike other bird species, that are typically uniform
in their coloration. Look closely at a flock of pigeons and you will
see white ones, gray ones. Some are blue gray and others have reddish
feathers. There are solid colored pigeons and speckled pigeons. A full-grown
pigeon has about 10,000 feathers.
Pigeons have been known to live more than
30 years. They are the only birds in the world that do not have to lift
their head to swallow water. They can see very well for more than 25
miles in the distance. Scientist believe they may hear wind blowing
over mountains from hundreds of miles away. The pigeon can beat its
wings up to ten times per second, while maintaining a heart rate of
600 beats per minute up to 16 hours without rest.
Unless separated, pigeons mate for life.
Not only do both parents feed their young but they will feed other babies
in their flock, even if they are not their own.
Pigeons have been recognized for other
extraordinary things, as well. In the late 1800s, the most heroic recorded
flight was from a pigeon that was released in Africa and took 55 days
to get home in England. It traveled over 7,000 miles. In the 17th century,
King George I of England decreed all pigeon droppings to be property
of the Crown and the “lofts” were policed to enforce the
law! (Pigeon manure was used in making gunpowder.) Pigeons have been
bought for as much as $225,000.00 USD. Around the world, there are about
five races a year with million dollar purses.
Scientists are realizing how interesting
pigeons are and have many questions about them. The answers will tell
us not only about pigeons, but about birds in general, as well as help
us learn more about other wildlife, our land, skies and ourselves as