Thursday, August 02, 2007

[pigeons] rats with wings

Ken Livingstone's old jibe about pigeons being "rats with wings" is a disgrace to the memory of the hundreds of brave pigeons who went through shelling, trained killer-hawks and countless other vicissitudes to deliver the message and save our heroic men and women in the last conflagration.

Wartime gallantry

Since Roman times the pigeon has come to the aid of man:

In the Siege of Paris in 1870, as the Prussians advanced, a balloon called La Ville de Florence sent off three pigeons at 11 a.m. They were back, mission accomplished, by 5 p.m.

A brave French pigeon named Le Vaillant was awarded the Ordre de la Nation.

Another, Cher Ami saved the lives of the 77th Infantry Division's "lost battalion" at Verdun by delivering 12 messages and returning to his loft with a shattered leg after he was shot. He won the Croix de Guerre with Palm and died in 1919 as a result of his wounds.

Pigeons' core competencies

Their uncanny ability to home has been speculated upon since time immemorial.

Of course you're all familiar with Hagstrum's hypothesis on the Great Pigeon Debacle of '97 [known in pigeon circles as "The 97"] which proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt that climate change is real, that women are more receptive to male advances in direct proportion to the amount of outlay for the evening and that pigeons navigate by some sort of ultra-sound.

US Geological Surveyer, Jonathan Hagstrum, in studying this event, noticed [that when] the racing pigeons were crossing the Channel, the Concorde was flying along the Channel also. In flight the SST generates a [downwards] shock wave, a carpet of sound almost a hundred miles wide. The racing pigeons flying below the Concorde could not have escaped the intense wave of sound. He concluded that the pigeons who did make it back were the slow-coaches who missed the Concorde.


A heroic pigeon did a swan dive into a New Lourdes swimming pool and pulled a drowning 2-month-old baby by her hair to her hysterical mother poolside. Ms. June Carroway stated: "I was frantic, but I couldn't save her. I can't swim either." The pigeon made sure the baby was lifted out of the pool by her mother and then flew away.

Public service

Many know of the decisive statement made on George Bush's jacket on the White House lawn by the sparrow pigeon, Le Dump, who eluded radar, concealed snipers and security men, causing apoplexy to Dick "Fire-at-anything-which-moves" Cheney.

Forces amass

One would think that, with such a long and distinguished record of service, a slight rear end faeces retention design problem, unfortunately resulting in "combined deposits up to several tons a year and costing £15 million to clear up", might be overlooked by the killjoys.

Not a bit of it. Even Bill Bryson, in Notes from a Small Island, Black Swan, 1995, pp 137/8, gets stuck into Rock and his buddies:

I took my pack and ticket to the requisite platform, where I sat on a bench and passed the time watching the station pigeons. They really are the most amazingly panicky and dopey creatures. I couldn't imagine an emptier, less satisfying life.

Here are instructions for being a pigeon:

1. Walk around aimlessly for a while, pecking at cigarette butts and other inappropriate items.

2. Take fright at someone walking along the platform and fly off to a girder.

3. Have a cr-p.

4. Repeat.

Oh yeah? Well let me tell you, Mr. Bryson, that:

Hattie Grove High School have proven that feral city pigeons do not wander about aimlessly among hurried pedestrians but are actually dancing with them. Biology student Jervis Mason stated: "I spent 4 days observing them in a downtown crossing and studied their behavior carefully. The patterns they follow can only be the pigeon version of the Square Dance."

So who's perfect?

Admittedly they do sometimes get a little out of line but I ask, open-armed, who doesn't?

A gang of marauding pigeons held up a Bubble Creek convenience store and made off with $567 in cash and a package of Armour hot dogs. Said dazed clerk Annie Costello, "At first I thought they were punk kids dressed up like pigeons, but then I realized they were too small to be kids."

Well, OK. They did do that one. A bit.

But that's no reason for Uberfuehrer Livingstone to pursue his campaign of persecution on the poor homeless pigeon who needs our love and care if we'll only give him a chance. For goodness sake, not content with banning their feeding, consigning them to agonizing deaths from enforced starvation in Stalag Trafalgar:

The mayor's attempted coup de grace came when he hired two Harris hawks to patrol the skies. The opposition Liberal Democrats have criticized the program. The hawks have cost taxpayers 226,000 pounds since 2002, while killing an estimated 121 pigeons, the party says.

Poop Cross mercy mission

To the rescue comes:

Lowestoft Council, who are driving birds away from residential areas to specially built feeding and breeding areas in less sensitive places. So has the pigeon problem been solved? Lowestoft certainly have had successful results with the designated breeding areas.

Oh what a sad and sorry tale for the poor rock pigeon. Is there no end to the depths of depravity the ingrate humans will inflict on our feathered allies?

A plea by Walt Pigeon

O Pigeon! my Pigeon!

Rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the dung is flung—for you the bugle trills;

For you not grain and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the Mayor a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager hands a-feeding;

Here Pigeon! dear feathered friend!

Please crap on Kenneth's head;

It's his dream that on the square,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.


  1. Yes, pigeons get a bad press and you are right to remind us of their heroism. I like how you sneaked in the bit about women being more receptive to male advances according to the outlay for the evening - was that a test to see if we read it all? That's a nice title you've got today.

  2. Wondered if the ladies would pick up on that but should have known that Young Eagle Eyes Limoncello would pick it up.

    I really do appreciate your reading of my posts, WC. Even if you were my only reader I'd try to post something new and interesting, like JMB's buskers.

    Now I have to go over to SS.

  3. Having spent years observing pigeons, I've noticed that many of them have only one leg, yet never complain or ask for special treatment. I think this makes them even more worthy of praise. They are a much misunderstood creature. A bit like me, actually.

  4. I spose I have less patience with pigeons because I grew up in the city where they were everywhere, and I mean, EVERYWHERE, getting underfoot and pooping and pecking at everything. What's worse is that tourists thought it would be cute to feed them.

    Was a French pigeon really given an award, though? That's peculiar, but well-deserved, I suppose.

    I just read that some cities are mixing feed that sterilizes pigeons who eat it in an attempt to cut down on the pigeon population.

    Sorry, Lord Trafalger Rock Pigeon.

  5. too funny. I like the 'military pigeons myself, but the dancing pigeons were good as well. I am always more affectionate myself after I have been fed, I will say.

  6. Not really relevant, but did you know the dodo was closer related to some Pidgeons than those pidgeons are to other pidgeons?

    In Brum, the lawn around the Protestant Cathedral is known to Brummies as 'Pidegeon Park', so much so that few are aware that that ISN'T actually it's name.

  7. Yes, Dick - pigeonism is a dire thing and one legged pigeons are seriously oppressed.

    Bag - that was uncalled for! You'd be better off commenting on my poll!

    Ruthie - so, sob, I can't continue with this heartlessness.

    Lady MacLeod - wonderful analogy there about yourself after a good feed. Must admit I am too.

    Crushed - are all Brummies bald, do you know?

  8. Well I have a thick head of curly hair so, no.
    Don't know many bald people, to be fair.

    I've always said- and I mean it- I hope I die before it happens to me.
    Love my locks.

  9. You are always interesting, Lord-forget-who-now.

  10. I was laughing so hard I was glad I wasn't drinking anything at the time.

    I wondered if I had come to the right blog, since it was so like the posts of Musings of a Distractible Mind, one of my regular reads who often talks about llamas and goats.
    226,000 pounds for two hawks to catch 121 pigeons over 5 years. They must have graduated at the bottom of hawk class, those two or else they enjoyed the pigeon feed and weren't very hungry.

  11. Rats with wings, eh?

    And just what's wrong with that?

  12. Maybe rats should be given awards...Rats have been even more unjustly maligned than pigeons! So maybe they've eaten a few babies instead of saving them, so what! They make great pets and keep my yard free from figs and fallen fruit.