Last week we wrote about a debate in Scotland between pigeon (Rock Dove) fanciers and about everybody else regarding whether to spend several hundred thousand pounds to remove Sparrowhawks from about 40 pigeon lofts; Sunday , the New York Times reviewed a brand new book about pigeons and what humans have done to that species.
We haven’t read the book yet but thought we should share the review with you. Pigeons, the Superdove of the book’s title, may have been the first domesticated bird in history, about 5000 years ago in the Middle East. Nonetheless, humans have thought of the birds primarily, as do Sparrowhawks to this day, as food. Secondarily, humans have thought of pigeons, as do Sparrowhawks, as entertainment. Captive pigeons were bred for food, racing, and show. Courtney Humphries, the book’s author, writes, “. . . in exchange for food and shelter, the pigeons give complete genetic control to their owners.”
However, most pigeons said, “No thanks” and escaped to the wilderness of human cities. Pigeon populations can quintuple in a year and often do when conditions are right. About all they need is a great many humans living close to one another. (As I write this, several genetically adapted pigeons are feeding underneath bird feeders in our backyard.) People, “are forces of nature. We create and destroy habitat, we shape genomes, we aid the worldwide movement of other species.”
And pigeon fanciers apparently do not lack passion. Here is one at a meeting in South Brooklyn during a debate on the morality of feeding them. “They’ve got two babies coming every four weeks. There’s too many babies for them to feed, and it keeps them in poverty, a cycle of poverty!”
We don’t make this stuff up.