Friday, June 11, 2010

Creature Feature: Rock Dove.

...yeah, that's just a more awesome way of saying 'common city pigeon' (Columba livia domestica). I know, I know, there are a MILLION other pretty pigeons out there, but, as with the Japanese beetle, it never hurts to try and see the beauty in the invasive and mundane.

Pigeons are surprisingly interesting birds. If you do not immediately shoo them away, take a look at them sometime. Not only are the wild-type (!) pigeons iridescent, but they come in a variety of colors and patterns. Like many species, they can inherit piebaldism, which leaves some patches of black iridescence in a sea of white. Other times, they just remind one of cheesecake or cookies n' cream ice cream.

Unlike Japanese beetles and lionfish, rock doves have been bred in captivity for thousands of years (going all the way back to cuneiform tablets) and have a few exotic looks to show for it.

As cool as exploding feathery heads are, I cannot fathom what prompted THIS breed.

Like many doves, city pigeons have an innate sense of direction. One theory says that magnetic particles in their brains allow pigeons to remember exactly where their nests and mates are, even if they are moved thousands of miles away from the site. Other theories say that pigeons can return home via solar patterns, visual cues, or familiar smells, but those are not nearly as awesome as honing in on the Earth's magnetic pull. However they do it, the pigeon's knack for navigation has been observed and manipulated since ancient times; pigeons were often used to deliver messages. In World Wars I and II, the ability to carry notes back and forth earned a few lucky pigeons medals. By "lucky," I mean "got injured and still delivered the notes."

Lest we forget.

Pigeons are also one of the few groups of birds that feed their young with milk. No, they do not have breasts (do I even need to mention DuckTits?), but instead regurgitate a high-fat and -protein semi-liquid from their crops. It is produced by both male and female pigeons. Replacing this special feed is one of the main obstacles of pigeon breeders (such as, say...Darwin).

Despite the pigeon's talents and service to mankind, we still do not want them in our cities. Their waste slowly decays bridges and statues, after all. The easiest way to curb the pigeon population is to stop people from feeding them, or, alternatively, let the peregrine falcons do their thing.

Falcons are badasses like that.

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