You may think that pigeons are more of a nuisance than anything else. Many of us have had to scrub pigeon droppings off of statues or home decorations. The sheer number of pigeons that we see in our cities can make us take these birds for granted. Discover magazine for August 2018 published a dossier of the unique features of the common pigeon, also known as the rock pigeon or rock dove. These features show it is incredibly well-designed to survive in almost any environment on Earth. Here are some interesting characteristics:
Pigeons are one of only three kinds of birds that have an enlarged crop which is an extension of the esophagus. They use this crop to store food which they eventually give to their young.
Most birds drink by taking in water and then putting their heads back to allow the water to run into their stomach. Pigeons have a unique beak that acts like a straw enabling them to suck up the water.
Wing muscle makes up about 60% of a pigeon’s body weight making pigeons excellent flyers. They can cover 500 miles a day and can reach speeds of 50 mph.
Pigeons can navigate in ways that are still poorly understood by scientists. Experiments have shown they can use sound, magnetic fields, landmarks, the Sun, and even smell. Like the Arctic Tern, the common pigeon seems to possess multiple navigational tools.
Pigeons have a concept of self and can recognize themselves in a reflection. There are only six other animals that can do that.
Pigeons are more capable than babies and toddlers in recognizing the letters of the alphabet.
Pigeons use “fright molt” which is the ability to shed feathers when attacked.
Humans have used pigeons for food, for carrying messages, and for psychological testing. In fact, the famous psychologist B.F. Skinner taught pigeons how to play ping pong. Our most abundant birds like pigeons and crows were designed to do remarkable things. God frequently advises us to learn from His creation–including all life forms. (For example, Proverbs 6:5, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.”) We can also learn from the common pigeon which is not so ordinary after all.
–John N. Clayton © 2018