For the Birds

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: First a disclaimer of sorts, not quite in keeping with my usual standards, this photo postcard turned out to be a reproduction – an old one, but a reproduction nonetheless. I remain a bit miffed at the eBay seller because it wasn’t made clear and showing the back of the card would have easily told the tale. Nonetheless, I do love the image because the truth is, I’m very fond of pigeons. Yep, the bird all the world seems to hate – rats with wings you hear New Yorkers say. I don’t go all the way to feeding them – they seem more than capable of finding food on their own – but I do like and even admire them.

I always think of my mom saying, “Pigeons don’t know that people think they are awful. As far as they are concerned, they are glorious flying creatures.” It’s true – from their perspective they are every bit as good as a sparrow or robin, if not a proud hawk or eagle! After all, why shouldn’t pigeons think big?

In my opinion there is a lot to be said about pigeons. Monogamous for life, successful urban denizens – they live cheerfully among us and for centuries have aided and interacted with humans. Kim told me a great story about how when as a small child his family first came to Manhattan and his parents pointed out that it was a wonderful place where birds walked among the people on the sidewalks! Glorious!

I like to watch pigeon couples in the city and am inclined to point out birds I think are especially attractive – there’s a wide range of pigeon design. I tend to be very fond of the ones with a lot of white and some black markings, but sometimes the mostly white ones with brown or gray markings are remarkable. Sometimes you see ones that are clearly very elderly too. There is a lovely couple who have nested outside my office at the Met. I can’t see the nest, but they frequently sit where I see them, together on a railing, in the early afternoon this time of the year.

As we all know, pigeons have a brilliant internal mapping system and of course pigeons like the one shown here have been used to carry messages during wars. As far as I can tell in translation, this refers to a message sent by pigeon (June 4, 1916) in France as Raynol made his last stand in battle. Saying that they are trapped and under chemical attack and that this is his last pigeon. The fastest pigeon flying speed was recorded at 92.5 mph! Go baby, go!

While I do not expect to win pigeon haters over with these brief thoughts, for those of you on the fence, you might take a moment and consider giving them a second look the next time you see a gathering of them.

For the French reading among us, I offer the back of the card:

pigeon back of card

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