Sunday Book Review – The Global Pigeon by Colin Jerolmark

9780226002088‘I never paid much attention to pigeons until one defecated on me’ is not a bad opening line for a book. This book is about the interaction between pigeons and people – which of the two gets more defecated upon?

Domesticated pigeons, and urban feral pigeons, are derived from the Rock Dove but are normally ignored by most birders. I never add feral pigeon to my day list, unless it is languishing on 99 at the end of the day.

This book is really much more about people than pigeons – and people can be quite interesting.  The author uses the relationships between men (mostly) and pigeons to explore our human relationship with nature.  Are city-dwellers, for example on the rooftops of Brooklyn, who keep, breed or race pigeons using the birds vicariously to connect with nature? Or is the relationship more to do with with us dominating nature?

Why are we so divided about the place of pigeons in the midst of our towns whether it be Trafalgar Square in London or Venice’s Piazza San Marco? Some want to feed them, some want them gone; both feel strongly about it.

Sun City, South Africa organised a pigeon race where the first prize was $200,000 – that seems to be a reason to be interested in pigeons.

This book is a mixture of ethnography and sociology and explores our relationship with nature.  The more academic explanations of our behaviour weren’t for me, but the descriptions of human behaviour were fascinating. We are, perhaps, almost as interesting as pigeons.

The Global Pigeon is published by The University of Chicago Press and is available on Amazon, as is Fighting for Birds by Mark Avery.

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3 Replies to “Sunday Book Review – The Global Pigeon by Colin Jerolmark”

  1. Interesting how we develop our ideas and relationships with various species. As a child my uncle in South Wales sent me 2 racing pigeons to get started in that hobby. My grandfather, who we lived with, sent them back because he didn't want his vegetables eaten. Who can tell, if I had kept those birds, whether I would now be on here complaining about Peregrines.

    I also never add feral pigeon to my day list. It was always on my life list but now I have seen true Rock Dove even that has sorted itself out.

  2. Speaking of peregrines Bob, our Derby Cathedral pair are about to lay for the ninth season running (see our web cams by googling 'derby peregrines'). Local pigeon fanciers have now mostly accepted that a pair of falcons nest near their lofts - though we still get a few abusive comments to our blog each summer.
    What is rather interesting is that as well as feral pigeons and wood pigeons, stock doves, which I normally think of as strictly rural birds, are frequently seen on the tower, even perching close to the peregrine nest platform itself!


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