Pigeons Rock (Doves)
People love doves, they are a symbol of peace, their gentle coo warms our hearts and brings a warm glow to bodies but not so the pigeon. Seen a plenty on our streets the humble pigeon, often called a sky rat, is hated by many. There is a slight problem with this though, there is no difference between a dove and a pigeon.
Our city pigeons are actually the feral descendants of the Rock Dove.
The Rock Dove – What many would call the common pigeon.
To make matters even more confusing, when looking at the etymology you see their names mean ‘pigeon, dove’
The rock dove was first described by Gmelin in 1789. The genus name Columba is the Latin word meaning “pigeon, dove”, whose older etymology comes from the Ancient Greek κόλυμβος (kolumbos), “a diver”, from κολυμβάω (kolumbao), “dive, plunge headlong, swim”. Aristophanes (Birds, 304) and others use the word κολυμβίς (kolumbis), “diver”, for the name of the bird, because of its swimming motion in the air – Wikipedia
Before becoming domesticated, the doves lived on the cliffs but found a happy life alongside humans. They are amazing companion birds who have a strong bond with the humans who keep them. They also mate for life and raise their young as a family unit. Uncles and aunts helping to guard the nest and even sitting the eggs and hatchlings.
As well as being sweet natured and loyal, they have served humans for hundreds of years. They have saved lives and won medals. The PDSA Dickin Medal was instituted in 1943 in the United Kingdom by Maria Dickin to honour the work of animals in World War II and has been won by many pigeons. Maria Dickin was the founder of the PDSA.
Some examples of awards of this medal have been –
White Vision – a Pigeon who delivered a message that led to the rescue of a ditched aircrew in October 1943. She flew 9 hours in bad visibility and heavy weather with strong headwinds.
Kenley Lass – a Pigeon who who was the First pigeon to deliver intelligence from an agent in enemy-occupied France in October 1940; served with the National Pigeon Service. She was parachuted with the agent and released 12 days later to fly 300 miles back to home in less than 7 hours.
Gustav – a Pigeon who brought the first message from the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944 – Wikipedia
Recently I have had the absolute pleasure of watching these pigeons nesting on a balcony in Torquay. The little hatchling has survived Herring Gull attacks and the deepest snow this country has seen for more than a decade. Perhaps, the next time we are annoyed at a bit of poo on our car or think of the scavenging sky rats eating from our bins, it might be good to think of the lives that have been saved or the strength of bond these animals have both with their flock mates and with us.