Pigeons get a bad rap. “Dirty,” “flying ashtrays,” and “sky rats” are just a few common slurs hurled at pigeons while they’re trying to do their pigeon thing. Check out the pigeon champs linked above, and let’s get some facts straight about these underappreciated bird stars.
1. They really don’t spread disease to humans and aren’t any more susceptible to diseases like tuberculosis than other birds or wild animals. Don’t lick their poop off stuff and you should be fine.
2. Pigeons are smart! For starters, they’re about as good at math as primates, they can recognize all 26 letters of the English alphabet, they can distinguish between human faces, and they are the only non-mammals that can recognize their own reflection in a mirror.
3. Pigeons are excellent navigators and messengers. Homing pigeons have been used to establish wide communication networks for centuries. What linked main towns and cities in the Egyptian, Persian, Syrian, and Mongolian empires? Pigeon mail. The ancient Greeks used them to send Olympic race results to outer villages; Reuters press used them to send news and stock prices from Germany to Belgium; Kiwis used pigeon-grams to get news from Auckland to the Great Barrier Reef; and the Allies used them extensively to send messages to troops in WWI and WWII, which brings me to my next point.
4. Pigeons save lives! In wartime, pigeons fly across enemy lines to gather intelligence, relay messages, and to alert forces to emergencies, like sinking ships. Also, since pigeons see color like we do and have incredible eyesight and recognition, they can be very useful in search and rescue operations by identifying life jackets and things floating in water.
5. Pigeons are pretty cool. Their wings make noise to communicate with and alarm other pigeons, they can detect Earth’s magnetic fields, they use the sun as a compass, they can see color and UV light, they have feathers that detect pressure changes, they’re monogamous, they can fly up to 50 mph and 600 miles a day, and unlike other bird pets (I’m looking at you, canaries and parrots), they’ll fly back home.