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Wednesday, 22 February 2017


Pigeons are members of the bird family Columbidae along with doves. The names pigeon and dove are often used interchangeably.

Pigeon is a French word for a "peeping" chick, while dove is a Germanic word referring to the bird's diving flight

In ornithology, "dove" tends to be used for smaller species and "pigeon" for larger ones.

Pigeon By Jon Ascton - Wikipedia Commons

The species most commonly referred to as "pigeon" is the rock dove, one subspecies of which, the domestic pigeon, is common in many cities as the feral pigeon.


Domesticated pigeons were first developed in ancient Egypt, and the pigeon loft or dovecote subsequently becomes a living larder for many communities - such as medieval monasteries.

The ancient Egyptians also used pigeons for military communication.

The sport of flying homing pigeons was well-established as early as 3000 years ago. They were used to proclaim the winner of the Olympics,

In agrarian times, pigeon poop often was used as a dowry because it served as good fertilizer.

The homing pigeon is a variety of domestic pigeon (Columba livia domestica) derived from the rock pigeon, selectively bred for its ability to find its way home over extremely long distances.

Pigeon in flight By Alan D. Wilson, -
 It was 11th century Baghdad where the idea first occurred of setting up a postal service using the tendency of certain pigeons to fly straight home from wherever they may be. By 1167 a regular service between Baghdad and Syria had been established by Sultan Nour-Eddin.

Genghis Khan saw the obvious potential of the bird and he used pigeons to carry swift news of each new conquest to his homeland in Mongolia.

Homing pigeons were selectively bred and originated in Belgium and England in the 19th century.

The outcome of the Battle of Waterloo was first delivered by a pigeon to England.

Stamp for 1899 Pigeon-Gram service

In 1818, a great pigeon race called the Cannonball Run took place at Brussels.

The animal most frequently mentioned in Charles Darwin's Origin Of Species is the pigeon.

In 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, French pigeons dodged German bullets and hawks to carry messages in and out of a besieged Paris. The callous authorities disposed of the few surviving birds for a franc apiece and the only memorial to the brave birds is an epic poem "Les Pigeons de la Republique".

The 1900 Olympics featured a live pigeon shooting event. The winner bagged 21 pigeons. 299 birds were killed in total.

Clocked at speeds of up to 110mph, more than 100,000 racing pigeons were used by the British for communication in World War I with a success rate of 95 per cent.

A London bus converted into a pigeon loft for use during the First World War

Killing or wounding these feathered heroes in Britain could get you a fine or six months in jail.

A pigeon, Cher Ami, was awarded the Croix de Guerre for its service during World War I. Cher Ami flew 25 miles (40 kms) on October 3, 1918 to deliver the S.O.S. message of a lost, encircled battalion despite being shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood, and with a leg hanging only by a tendon. He saved the lives of 194 soldiers.

Cher Ami

For 37 years the U.S. Army had an official department dedicated to the care, training, and deployment of pigeons, tasked with critical communications and reconnaissance missions

During World War II the American Office of Scientific Research and Development worked on such projects as training pigeons to guide missiles. (It was never achieved).

Homing pigeons were carried in bombers as a means of communications in the event of a crash, ditching, or radio failure.

Lancaster bomber crewman with homing pigeons

On November 25, 1944 a carrier pigeon Paddy was decorated for his effort in the war against Nazi Germany. In the service of Royal Air Force Paddy had achieved to get a message from Normandy to England in the fastest crossing of the English Channel: 4 hours and 50 minutes. When receiving his Order of Merit Paddy was described as "exceptionally intelligent".

In 1995, pigeons were trained to tell the difference between works by Picasso and Monet.

The French army still keeps a dovecote with about 150 carrier pigeons, for communication in case of an emergency.


In 1818, a great pigeon race called the Cannonball Run took place at Brussels.

Once a mainstay of the 19th century, modern pigeon racing uses RFID tags to track pigeons' record arrival times.


Pigeon photography was an aerial photography technique invented in 1907 by Julius Neubronner, court apothecary of Empress Frederick, who also used pigeons for film special effects and to deliver medications. A homing pigeon was fitted with an aluminium breast harness to which a lightweight time-delayed miniature camera could be attached.

A whitewater rafting company once trained a flock of carrier pigeons to carry rolls of film containing pictures of the rafters back to the base to be developed and available for purchase by the end of the trip.


Modern homing pigeons find it more convenient to follow motorways and ring roads and turn left and right at junctions rather than using their in-built navigational abilities.

It's possible for pigeons to get suntans.

Pigeons remember humans by face. Chase one away and it will avoid you during later encounters.

Originally bred from the wild rock dove, which naturally inhabits sea cliffs and mountains, feral pigeons use the ledges of buildings as a substitute for sea cliffs.

Pigeon mum and dads produce a substance called crop milk to feed their hatchlings. High in fat and protein, it contains nutrients and antibodies to nourish the young. What makes crop milk most unusual is that it's produced by male as well as female birds.


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