Pigeon, a.k.a. Superdove

Monday, August 18, 2008

Pigeons’ ancestral homes are on the cliffs of sea coasts. How did they become so suited to city life? Courtney Humphries, author of the new book Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan…And the World, explains how pigeons became city dwellers, and why those who see them as mere urban pests should give the birds a little more respect.

Courtney Humphries will be giving a reading
Monday, August 18th at 7:00pm
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street

Weigh in: Do you think pigeons deserve their reputation as urban pests and "rats with wings"?


Courtney Humphries

Comments [14]

Hank Goldman from New York NY

What happens to the bodies of ALL the urban wildlife? Pigeons, mice and rats, Squirrels and stray cats, dogs, etc ?
After over 200 years in cities, like New York------ WHERE are their Hundreds of Thousands + of little urban wildlife carcasses?
They can't ALL be buried in nests or trees by relatives? They surely don't ALL get eaten by wolves, or owls or buzzards (few of which are visibly active in a major CITY).
I know that biological deterioration and decay happens, but it does NOT happen 'overnight', so one would think that you would see urban wildlife in various stages of decay. ----But; You Don't!!
No one I ask knows for sure? Do you? THANKS,

Sep. 02 2008 09:26 AM
RR from NA

Pigeons & English sparrows are not native to North America. They displace native song birds and other native bird species as they migrate across NYC. They are carriers of many disease and most likely
a reservoir host for the West Nile like virus.We should do all that we can to reduce the Pigeons & English sparrows populations in NYC and the suburbs.

Aug. 27 2008 01:45 PM

I have to say I did not like the tone of this interview either. I too object to the idea that animals are only worthy of respect in accordance with their value to human beings (as food animals or whatever). I have fostered feral pigeons and experienced first-hand how smart, playful, and affectionate they can be.... they are valuable creatures in their own right.

Aug. 25 2008 01:32 PM
johanna clearfield from brooklyn, New York

no, pigeons are not "rats with wings." According to the developers in the very last and precious wilds of PA and NJ, fawns are "rats with hooves." Life is precious, regardless of whatever epithet you use. Pigeons are doves. Humans only like the "white" doves and not the "coloreds." We live in a world where we demand that other sentient creatures -- either be of some service to humans (pets or food or entertainment) or they are "pests."

As a NY State licensed wildlife rehabilitator, I can assure everyone that pigeons do not spread diseases -- they have been domestic longer than "man's best friend" and so humans are completely immune to any of their commonly held diseases.

Most pigeons in the cities fall ill to man-made dangers and toxins such as drinking anti freeze out of desperation for water (there are little if any clean bird baths anywhere in the city) and/or being sliced into bits by shattered glass, run over by cars or trucks, chased by children, feet tangled in fishing wire left behind on any of our many water fronts, and the list goes on.

The most common cause of death in NYC pigeons is starvation.

Aug. 23 2008 06:43 PM
Donald Jenner from New York

Baby pigeons stay in the nest for about six weeks. A pigeon egg is around an inch long, and the new hatchling (commonly two, hatched a day or so apart) is very small and lightly down-coated. Mommy & Daddy birds take turns keeping their babies warm and feed. Ideally, the infants/juveniles hang around (hiding as needed) until maybe eight weeks old, at which point they are pretty well able to fly and eat on their own. One does see young pigeons, less than half adult-normal weight with the cere (the fleshy bit on the top of the beak) still not receded full and often a dull pink rather than white), out on the street. Sometimes out of the nest too early to readily survive; they are amazing as they get right into the mix with older birds and work very hard. Some of them make it to adulthood -- that's hardiness in the (pigeon) flesh. Amazing critters.

Aug. 22 2008 12:20 PM
Donald Jenner from New York

Then you are seeing pigeons who are having a very hard time -- probably having to root in garbage to find a bit to eat. The larger body of evidence -- which would appear to be outside the limited extent of your experience -- is that pigeons are fond of bathing, spend hours preening (adjusting and cleaning their feathers), take every possible step to avoid fouling their nests, smell good and -- well, just aren't as yucky as many New Yorkers (to judge from rides on the subway). Certainly not scrofulous, and the lice they get are not the lice causing mange, nor are people able to support feather-lice.

Aug. 22 2008 12:12 PM
Donald Jenner from New York

Ugh! "Science writer" -- j-school grad? -- does instant-book on hot topic. Probably GenX, thinks 30 is the new 20. Just accurate enough to get by an editor, far enough off to be dangerous to pigeons; perfect material for the B-school and new-minted lawyer to natter about over cocktails (more likely bad wine with dried-out cheese on soggy crax). Wonder what she read as a crib source?

Aug. 22 2008 12:03 PM
monkeybunny24 from s.i.,NY

To #5...Gee, you're describing a lot of New Yorkers too!

Aug. 18 2008 01:42 PM
Robert from Manhattan

Where are the baby Pigeons? You never see them on the street.

Aug. 18 2008 01:16 PM
a woman from manhattan

This is what I think of pigeons! They're mostly mangey, scrofulous, yucky things:

Aug. 18 2008 01:13 PM
MG from Park Slope

If you're one of these folks who throws trash and garbage on the ground, then you cannot complain about pigeons. They really are doing us a service by eating your trash.

Aug. 18 2008 01:09 PM
monkeybunny24 from s.i.,NY

Pigeons get too much bad press. They are city wildlife. It better to see free birds as opposed to those kept in cages. Leave the pigeons alone, they're not like you.

Aug. 18 2008 12:55 PM
Sarah from Brooklyn

Pigeons are fascinating to watch when you pay attention to them --- their markings, mating rituals, health, missing limbs. I love NYC pigeons!

Aug. 18 2008 12:52 PM

If Antonin Dvorak liked our NY pigeons, who am I to argue? Pigeons do provide employment security for window washers and statue cleaners. And they clean more crumbs off the Staten Island Ferry than the staff does. Perhaps some humans feel intimidated by animals who occasionally seem to outsmart us? Personally, I'll take a pigeon over a rat any day.

Aug. 18 2008 12:12 PM

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