whim: an odd or capricious notion or desire; a sudden or freakish fancy

Monday, June 18, 2012

in defense of pigeons


Ahem. It has come to my attention that I am part of a small minority when I say I like pigeons; and, in fact, many people hate the creatures, to the extent that committing crimes against them has become acceptable. I myself have laughed at how easily the nervous creatures panic and take flight, and how a small stamp of the foot sends them into a frenzy, but for one to kick them as a cur would kick a dog, or rejoice to see a dead pigeon––my conscience compels me to intervene on behalf of these birds. I must say, it seems rather unfair to me the merciless vendetta that some people have against this poor species. That one should take pleasure in giving them pain is horrifying indeed. What have they done to merit such loathing? And why, in this blessed world so full of wickedness and crime, would one waste hatred on so unassuming a species? 

Pigeons are actually smart little birds––and, you know, there may be a thing or two one could learn from these good fowls. For one, I was interested to learn that pigeons, those feral creatures scattered about London and other cities, actually mate for life. There is always something tender I feel whenever I hear of another species in the animal kingdom that mates for life. Emperor penguins, for example: while the husbands sit freezing in the arctic winds, warming the egg containing penguin junior, they wait faithfully for mum to return home from the great hunt. Such loyal creatures! Pigeon fathers also share the nesting duties, taking turns warming and protecting the nest from harm, so maybe shared fatherly duties comes hand-in-hand with mating-for-life-ness. Mating for life is a characteristic that seems to have fallen out of fashion with humanity. As people go through spouses like milk (keep it till it sours, then throw it out!), we really should turn to the birds and learn from their faithfulness. I can't imagine a pair of pigeons filing for divorce; they don't seem to suffer from humanity's current marital disease: irreconcilable differences. No leaving Jennifer Anniston when Angelina Jolie is hotter––pigeons have infinitely better sense than Brad Pitt. They are clever, really, and resourceful, I might add. City pigeons know exactly where to swarm to––the heavily trafficked touristy spots where a person is likely to leave a crumb or two of crumpets and cake for the birds to snatch up. They gladly accept what humanity discards.

Now many distrust city pigeons because they are mistaken for disease-carrying pests. In all actuality, pigeons have very good immune systems and aren't liable to transmit bird flu or other such diseases because they themselves don't carry the diseases. There are one or two diseases that one may contract from handling pigeons, but mostly from their dropppings (which, let's face it, we don't exactly scrape off the pavement and use as ice-cream toppers). As far as disease-carrying goes, you're one hundred times MORE likely to contract a disease from human contact than you are from pigeon contact. Think about the thousands of diseases which we pass around in our shaking hands and hugging and kissing––we thoughtlessly and shamelessly spread our germs, while shrieking at the sight of a pigeon, who is in reality a safer companion than another human. You might as well walk around with a surgical mask and gloves, for all you're concerned, and that would be no way to live.

But if you persist in arguing against the birds, yes, I do concede that there are pigeon populations in some big cities, leading to property damage and pollution from their droppings. But you can hardly blame them for that––they're only in cities in such great numbers because of us! Yes, the truth of the matter is that city pigeons are just descendants from domesticated pigeons gone feral. If we hadn't domesticated pigeons, the little problems they cause would never have existed. But doesn't a decent population of cooing, twittering pigeons just make a city? Think of a large city––London, or New York––and imagine it without pigeons. Wouldn't the streets be too solemn, too dull without our feathered friends?

But back to what we can learn from pigeons. Pigeons have an undeniably incredible sense of direction. Pigeons could fly thousands of miles and always be able to fly home. Drop a pigeon in the middle of the pacific blindfolded and it would know exactly where to go to get back home. We can't explain it, but we accept it and certainly trust it, which is why pigeons we have used them throughout time as carriers. Our militaries have trusted pigeons with vital information across enemy lines, and they have consistently fulfilled their duties and saved human lives with their faithfulness. G.I. Joe, for example, was a carrier pigeon who saved thousands of soldiers during WWII. In October 1943, the British were making advances on Colvi Veccia, a German-held Italian town. The Brits ordered an aerial attack of the town but were soon afterwards able to break through German lines and take up positions in the city. With a half-hour until the aerial attack, the soldiers in the city hurriedly tied a message to G.I. Joe's leg, telling headquarters to call off the attack to prevent thousands of British troops in the city from being killed by their own bombers. G.I. Joe flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and they were able to cancel the attack just as the bombers were taxiing up the runways.  Cher Ami was another heroic pigeon, during WWI, and delivered another life-saving mission despite being shot out of the sky by German troops. The bird arrived having been shot through the breast, blinded, and with a leg hanging by a tendon, but he delivered his message.

So for their loyalty and faithfulness, I appeal to your humanity and ask you to reconsider your opinion of these our feathered friends, and next time you go to kick a pigeon, remember how many lives its ancestor saved, and spare the poor bird a bit of pain.