There are those people who love pigeons.
In large cities you’ll see these people in the parks, sitting on benches and feeding flocks of the birds -- feeding them and feeding them.
The more that get fed, the more that will arrive. The more that arrive, the more bold the birds get, sometimes perching right on the person feeding them; gobbling as much as they can of the popcorn or bread bits or whatever the poor person is offering; leaving their benefactor as poo-streaked as any Civil War general’s statue
The species is appropriately named.
The word pigeon is made up of two root words: “pig,” a sloppy animal with a voracious appetite and “eon,” a really long period of time. And pigeons will pig out for a very long time.
None will leave until the last morsel has vanished.
Then there are those of us who consider them little more than feathered rats. I count myself among their number.
Pigeons have but one use now that we have more modern methods of communicating over long distances without needing to lash messages to their scaly, little legs. That’s pigeon pie.
A little red wine and some port, add some onions, thyme, parsley, juniper berries and mushrooms; a little bacon for flavoring; you might want to add some beef to make it more hardy. Add four well-dressed pigeons, wrap it all in shortbread pastry and bake it in a medium oven for a couple of hours.
Yup, that’s about all pigeons are good for except amusing the cat.
The only way to make pigeon pie any better would be to throw in more of them, reducing their growing numbers.
There are pigeon lovers living among us. They give them food. They give them somewhere to roost. It’s easy to spot them as the pigeons return each evening from their forays.
I’ve never cared about pigeons that much, except as pastry filling. But I’ve usually ignored them. Live and let live, I say. But a small flock likes to visit the apartments where I live and perch on the wires above where I parked my car.
So I no longer park in my designated spot, but a space or two away from the effects of gravity.
My wife is a kind soul. She’s taken to watching the Animal Planet and suffers when she sees the cruelty that man does to beast. So to give her pent-up emotions an outlet, I bought her a bird feeder – a lovely little six-sided, wooden gazebo that can hang from a tree.
She watches the birds feed and can even identify some of them. They are “her” birds, the sparrow family that first visited her treasurer trove of seeds and has continued to pay twice-daily visits throughout the year.
There are other birds – sorry, Audubon Society, I can’t name them by species. Some are very tiny and have reddish feathers around the back of their heads. The birds squabble and jockey for position at the feeder, but all usually get a chance to feed.
And then there are the pigeons – giants compared to my wife’s birds and their fellows of a feature. But when the pigeons decide they want to eat, all other birds must give way to their bulbous bodies.
The feeders – I’ve added a long cylindrical feeder – are not built for birds the size of pigeons so there’s no real place for them to perch. So they cling where they can, flapping their wings to stay attached, grabbing a beak or two of food before becoming dislodged.
They’re not able to eat that much, but they scare away the smaller birds. It had to stop.
So I took the gazebo down from where it hung and moved it to a cypress tree that grows close to our apartment. The branches all spring from a central hub without a main trunk.
I hung the gazebo inside the branch cluster, far from the reach of the pigeons.
They would learn better than to mess with me, the birdbrains. I’m not just a mammal; I’m a primate. Birds with a brain the size of one of my knuckles are no match for the likes of me.
Except for one… a pigeon genius. I call him Einstein. And for good reason.
The little birds are pretty messy when they eat, so seeds fall to the ground. And the pigeons cluster about pecking up all the fallen fodder.
Einstein stood among his pecking comrades looking up the tree branches to the gazebo – the mother lode.
He hopped upward from branch to branch inside the tree closing in on his prey. When he got close I came outside to scare him away. But poor Einstein was in no spot to flee. He flapped his wings, but they just collided with all the tight limbs and branches.
I was able to reach through them and take hold of him.
Keeping his wings pinned, I turned him to look me in the eye. “Get out and stay out,” I said gruffly as I cast him into the air.
He was so frightened by this close encounter he didn’t dare return for two or three minutes. Then he again began to climb. But when I came out of the apartment this time, he was able to flap between the branches and make a clean escape. He had learned from his previous error.
So it was time to improvise and teach a thumbless creature what it means to trifle with a toolmaker. I was off to Ace Hardware to talk to an expert on pigeon abatement.
Explaining my problem to him, he immediately suggested some chicken wire. I could build a little fence out of the wire leaving gaps for the small birds, but not enough room for the pigeons..
Suffering just a few pokes by sharp ended wire, I was able to craft me a border fence to keep the undocumented birds out of the seed barrel. I wove it between branches, lodging it in place.
Then I returned to my vantage spot inside the apartment where I could spy on the avian perpetrators.
Other pigeons had seen Einstein’s trick and were mindlessly trying to copy it. But they were getting nowhere close and eventually gave up and returned to the seed-covered ground. Then Einstein returned.
As he climbed closer to my chicken-wire barrier, he stopped to study my defenses. He pecked at one corner that was tucked behind a branch and it sprang free, giving him tight, but effective access. But now be was near the top of the gazebo and the food tray was at the lower level.
He tried to hold on and stretch down. But each time he had to withdraw or fall.
He turned around and lowered himself tail first, until his feet rested on the outside edge of the tray. But now his head couldn’t twist around low enough to get at the seeds.
So Einstein began to flap his wings. Harder and harder. The draft began to blow seeds out of the food tray in a shower to the birds below. After a few moments, Einstein stopped and dropped to the ground to join the banquet already in progress.
This had to be a freak accident. I couldn’t believe a pigeon could be so smart to pull a seed hustle on me. It looked like I was going to need professional help. So I turned to Mr. Google who directed me to deterapigeon.com. The website sells all manner of devices to keep pigeons from roosting on your property. Install some harmless deterapigeon spikes along the building ledges where the birds like to roost, and they are denied access. All products were guaranteed.
To help you better understand the threat you were facing, deterapigeon.com also included “21 amazing facts you didn’t know about pigeons.”
No 21 cleared things up: “Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet with pigeons being able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates.” So Einstein’s crafty calculations may not have been dumb luck.
Pigeons can pass the “mirror test” the website said. There are only six species capable of recognizing themselves in a mirror. And the other five are mammals. And pigeons supposedly can recognize all 26 letters of the English alphabet. I nervously looked up from my laptop screen and saw Einstein sitting on a branch looking in my window. He cocked his head from left to right, as if he was studying my computer screen.
I read on, shielding the screen with my body. In scientific tests pigeons were able to differentiate between human faces – even in a photograph, as long as food was involved.
This ratcheted up my game. I would have to build bigger, better and stronger to win this war of mere man against very brainy bird.
But it’s gotten so hot outsode. There’s only enough light to work when the sun’s up. And it’s just not worth a heat stroke to stop pigeons from getting a free handout.
Besides I’ve never cared that much about pigeons. Live and let live, I say. They’re just feathered rats and I can ignore them; except maybe for Einstein. He bears some watching.