Humans have a love-hate relationship with the Feral pigeon (Columba livia domestica). On the one hand, we love to feed them – until recently, crowds would flock to London’s Trafalgar Square to be photographed feeding the birds (an activity now banned), and what child didn’t learn to love birds through feeding pigeons (or ducks). On the other hand, we hate the mess they make and spend millions defacing our buildings with anti-pigeon spikes and wires to stop pigeons roosting on their handy ledges.
Yet, the pigeon has long been a friend of humankind. It was probably our first tame bird, having been domesticated as early as c. 4000 BC; it has seen war service and been awarded medals as a carrier of messages; it has been admired for its homing abilities; and it was once an important source of food.
While many feral pigeons have the grey colouring of their Rock dove ancestors, others display a multitude of colour combinations, ranging from almost completely white through red and brown to almost completely black. The reds are my favourites, just because they’re so different, but I think all pigeons are pretty and I would never call them ‘rats with wings’, like Woody Allen did in his 1980 film Stardust Memories.