"One hunter recalled a nighttime visit to a swamp in Ohio in 1845, when he was sixteen; he mistook for haystacks what were in fact alder and willow trees, bowed to the ground under gigantic pyramids of birds many bodies deep." In his new book about the passenger pigeon, the naturalist Joel Greenberg sets out to answer a puzzling question: How could the bird go from a population of billions to zero in less than fifty years? (SLNewYorker.) [more inside]
Wings of Desire. "[There] stood the imposing figure of Tesla, wearing a crown of two pigeons on his head, his shoulders and arms festooned with a dozen more, their white or pale-blue bodies making strong contrast with his black suit and black hair, even in the dusk. On either of his outstretched hands was another bird, while seemingly hundreds more made a living carpet on the ground in front of him, hopping about and pecking at the bird seed he had been scattering. It was Behrend’s [the scout’s] impulse to rush in, shoo the birds away and, seizing the missing man, rush him back to the auditorium. Something caused him to halt. Such an abrupt action seemed almost sacrilegious. …" [Via]
Some catfish have learnt a new trick [original paper] since being introduced to a French river around 30 years ago: they can beach themselves to hunt pigeons along the river bank. These catfish were around 90-150 cm (about three to five feet) long, but there are many species, some of which can be much larger. But you're probably safe from these. [previously]
In France, a Mission to Return the Military's Carrier Pigeons to Active Duty — Grounded After Modern Communication Devices Soared, Birds May Offer Low-Tech Solutions; No Round Trips [WSJ]. Let us not forget Le Vaillant, Cher Ami, and the other birds that save lives.
The British Military Still Uses Carrier Pigeons. Not really. But the skeletal remains of a WWII carrier pigeon were recently found in a chimney, with a coded message still attached to its leg.
Iconographie ouvrages anciens is a collection of historic animal illustrations that date as far back as the 16th Century, courtesy of the library at Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Lyon. [more inside]
With a forecast of 20 percent growth in sales throughout 2009, China is a fascinating example of a society grappling with the effects that the automobile brings. Personally, I'd stick with bikes for the city, guys - it seems more fun.
Iran says it caught two pigeons spying on it's nuclear reactor. It sounds crazy, but it's not as farfetched as you might think. The lowly pigeon has been used in military operations since the 12th century. Commando the Pigeon flew 90 missions in German-occupied France during WWII. Pigeons like Commando, Winkie, and Paddy had a lock on the Dickin Medal for animal bravery during WWII. Then again, maybe it's just crazy. Last year Iran said it had arrested 14 squirrels for espionage.
The Brooklyn Pigeon Serial Killer vs The Brooklyn Pigeon Advocate. Related to The Brooklyn Pigeon Blowdart Attacks of '98?
Wild turkeys up to 4 feet tall are strolling on the sidewalks of Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline, Mass. Animal control officer Pierre Verrier suggests shooing turkeys away with a purse. But some people need to be near the turkeys.
Roller pigeons also known as Birmingham Rollers are pigeons that are noted for their mid-air somersaults. These acrobatics also make the birds irresistible to hawks, falcons and other birds of prey, and some roller pigeon enthusiasts are fighting back. Investigators are estimating that local enthusiast clubs are responsible for the deaths of 1000-2000 raptors in the Los Angeles area annually. One man bragged about capturing 30 hawks in 45 days. The National Birmingham Rollers Club has issued a press release distancing themselves from the men under investigation but requests Fish and Wildlife Services to provide aid under laws protecting livestock predated by endangered species.
The Memorial Gardens in Surrey has a pigeon problem, and has hired a marksman to come to town & conduct a three year program of pigeon sniping to resolve the issue. The people of Surrey respond, via some of the funniest letters to the newspaper I've ever read (letters published at the bottom of the article).
Searchable Ornithological Research Archive a site containing back issues of avian journals dating back to 1884. Some highlights: The landing forces of domestic pigeons, [pdf] an 1889 comparison of bird brains [pdf]
Pigeons. Some people love them, others loathe them. Although the passenger pigeon went the way of the dodo, our rock dove friends continue to endure and prosper. First introduced to America's shores by french guests in 1606, the rats with wings are great sources of amusement, childish delights, mathematical theorem, and even spiritual inspiration, defying all efforts to wipe the little poop factories out. Plus they're tasty!
Athletes... Steroids... blah blah blah.. Only this time it's the pigeons. Poor birds.
The Great Pigeon Debacle 2004. Now none of this would have happened if the guy had a resident snake.
Pigeons Ride the Subway!(NYT Link) This reporter found truth behind a New York urban legend, train riding pigeons. Any weird stories of urbanized animals in your area?
The Trafalgar Square pigeons are really going now. Bernard Rayner, the last Trafalgar Square birdseed-seller, has settled for a cash payment from the city of London and closed down forever, thus ending a long tradition of feeding and encouraging 10,000 statue-bombarding "rats with wings" to befoul one of London's best outdoor gathering places. Not everyone is happy about this.