Nov 14, 2009


The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird
by Andrew D. Blechman

A book about people who are passionate about pigeons. Love them, hate them. Breeders, sportsmen, activists, rescuers, chefs. Pigeons have a long history with man including doves that were sent from ships to find land, birds raised or hunted to be eaten in pies, and pigeons that delivered crucial messages during war. Then there are hobbyists: men who breed fancy pigeons for their colors, shapes and fantastic feathers, others involved in the dying sport of pigeon racing, or the clandestine pigeon shoots. Pushing a bit further beyond these obvious interests, the author also sought out famous people who loved pigeons (Queen Elizabeth, Mike Tyson), men whose livelihoods are built on deterring pigeons from hanging around buildings, and others who work in processing plants that sell pigeon meat to fine restaurants. Then there's the city ladies obsessed with feeding pigeons, those that furtively net pigeons to sell to the shoots, and animal-rights people who try to thwart them. Blechman finds out about them all, in the meantime sharing a wealth of pigeon lore. He claims that pigeons really don't spread disease, in spite of the mess they leave around, and that their current status as reviled "rats with wings" is relatively new; for a much longer time period pigeons have been appreciated as one of man's first domesticated animals. They can be birds of great stamina, natural athletes, and complete homebodies- racing pigeons, after all, are just speeding their way back home to their comforts and city pigeons like to hang around people because the pickings are easy. I learned a lot of interesting stuff from Pigeons, but sometimes wished it stuck a little closer to topic (more on the pigeons and less about the people) particularly the chapter about the famous boxer. It was all about how the author kept getting the runaround when trying for an interview, with a smattering of info he picked up on Tyson's pigeons. That part could have used some editing.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 239 pages, 2006

More opinions at:
Diary of a Suburban Gardener


bermudaonion said...

I've heard about homing pigeons, but frankly, all I see is the mess they make in cities. The book sounds interesting.

Jenny said...

I've heard about the compulsive pigeon-feeders! What a strange thing to think of to do with your time.

Jeane said...

Bermudaonion- I know. I'm familiar with pigeons from living in San Francisco, and I just thought they were gross. This book taught me a lot more about their better sides!

Jenny- What's even stranger is how they went about it. One lady he followed on her feeding route wouldn't even stay around to enjoy watching the birds eat, just dump piles of birdseed on a corner and move on to another spot. It was kind of strange.

Janet said...

This sounds like a real eye-opener about a very familiar sight.

My daughter loves seeing the pigeons on the local courthouse. They sit crowded together on the peaked roofs, and she loves to imagine what sort of meeting they're having. Once mist shrouded the upper peaks, and she was convinced they'd chopped off the peaked roofs to make an easier spot for the pigeons to sit.

Eva said...

It's too bad you didn't enjoy this more-it's an interesting topic! I'm not a huge fan of pigeons, but I am curious about them. :)

Jeane said...

Janet- Pigeons having meetings at the courthouse! That's something to think about :)

Eva- Most of it was pretty good, actually. The chapter about how he kept trying to get interviews with Mike Tyson felt mostly superfluous, that's all.

Stephanie said...

My uncle, who passed away a few years ago, raise pigeons and had a pigeon coup in his backyard. I remember going inside to see all the pigeons that he raced. He would probably roll in his grave to find out that while in China I ate pigeon, which tasted pretty darn good!

Jeane said...

I've heard the young pigeons are excellent for eating. Did they call it "squab" in the restaurant? That's what the book kept calling it. Oh, wait, in China- must be a different term entirely.