I’m a sucker for pigeons. I loved them long before Hugh and I rescued a couple of lost racing pigeons, and I continue to love them long after. People who’ve never observed pigeons will marvel when they first notice how pigeons out-maneuver Peregrines in harrowing chases. These birds, whose ancestors sprang from the cliffs alongside their evolutionary partners, the falcons, have a lineage that defies their humble reputation.
They’ve been war messengers, like Cher Ami. They were inspiration for Darwin’s evolutionary studies. They navigate home using a complex compass that includes the sun and magnetic fields. They can count. They are devoted parents and partners. They are stubborn but facile, determined but flexible. Nowhere is this dichotomy of characteristics more apparent than on a high wire, where a flock of pigeons will fight to hold on to an uncertain perch, and exhaust all possibilities before adjourning to a more suitable post.
I shot these images on a windy day, where large pigeon feet grappled with thin wires … and where tail rudders and flaps kept these birds from spinning around the wires like magnetic gyro wheels.
This sequence shows the maneuvers inherent in staying aloft … pigeon style.
Click on the image below for a larger version … then click again for an even larger photo.
Airport navigation, pigeon style: “All Gates Occupied,” or, as a Facebook friend of mine suggested … O’Hare for pigeons:
Maintaining composure and balance in the wind:
Observing a Starling flyby:
Mayhem on the wires:
And … ignore the vocal quirks of this video … it’s a decent primer on birds and utility wires: