City Pigeon Strut
These urban birds know where it's at.
She's always in her element on these streets; this is her city after all, and though her ancestors came from elsewhere, this is the only world she's ever known. But today she feels more than confident. Today she is triumphant.
She sashays along the sidewalk, all eyes on her. Strangers stop and stare in wonder as she passes, but she can also hear the growing crowd from her own community who trail along behind her, a glorious flock of admirers who desperately want what she has. Will she ever acknowledge them? Will she deem them worthy of sharing her knowledge, and her wealth?
Unfortunately I can't say how the story ended, because standing on the corner of Bay and Bloor in Toronto I could only watch with delight as a small portion of this drama played out. But I can say that a pigeon who has turned a hollowed out piece of bread into a necklace walks with a certain spring in their step, and attracts the attention of other pigeons and humans alike.
Did you know there have been studies of pigeon intelligence which showed they could count as well as primates, have an amazing memory, can learn to recognize printed words amongst meaningless collections of letters, and can even be taught to distinguish between the painting styles of Monet and Picasso?
I don’t know if there’s been a scientific study regarding Rocket-riding rock doves (“The Rocket” being the nickname for Toronto’s transit system, and rock dove being another name for pigeons, who also have the Latin name Columba livia, and are from the family Columbidae), but based on personal experience I am 100% certain there are pigeons in Toronto who not only understand how the subway works, but who board the train with a particular destination in mind. After all, if scientific studies have shown that pigeons use their sense of smell to help them navigate and then memorize preferred routes, why wouldn’t they know which stop had the best muffins in town?
Columbidae Commute (A Subway Sonnet)
The subway's warning chime is set to ring;
We take our seats with eyes upon the floor.
A snap and flap of salt-and-pepper wings;
A pigeon beats the air and closing doors.
The train in motion now, the pigeon lands
And struts their way around the center aisle.
We riders give attention on demand
To this new guest who walks with certain style.
Two stations pass and when we reach the third
I know I'm near my chosen coffee shop.
I rise and see beside me is the bird
Who also knows the bounty at this stop.
We exit grateful to have shared the ride;
The city thrives on life diversified.
~ Marilyn Anne Campbell
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Looking for more love for city pigeons? Try:
The animated “Who Dat” music video from Emmit Fenn and Patrick Jean on Vimeo, which features a very funky pigeon.
A small gallery of photographer Andrew Garn’s New York pigeon photographs on the Guardian website (from his book "The New York Pigeon: Behind the Feathers”)
Remember you can always click the heart to let us know which issues are your favourite, hit reply to send us feedback directly, or leave a comment on any issue on the website archive.
Thanks for reading,
Marilyn & Steve
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