Yes, this blog is about pigeons, aka “flying vermin” depending on whether one has taken a dump on your car or head or not. You can either be the pigeon or the statue on this occasion.
Yet these bird brains served the armed services in both world wars, and won a number of medals as a result. The award is often called the “Animal VC”, although that is frowned upon in official circles, instead it is known as the Dickin Medal and it has been awarded to no less than 32 pigeons. They do not mention how the medal is pinned onto the said bird though, or whether the bird gets a pension when it retires. Pigeons are also recorded as having been used in the Anglo Boer War.
In Johannesburg in South Africa there is a statue to the humble pigeon called appropriately enough “Paper Pigeon” on a traffic island near the former “Chinatown” in the city.
That particular island was always populated by a gazillion pigeons, possibly it was their HQ for when they planned their mass bombing runs? I do remember seeing people feeding them there over the years, and even today that is true.
Oh course the humble pigeon also made news internationally when in 2009, a homing pigeon, carrying a microSD card with 4 gigabytes of data was sent on his way to Hillcrest in Natal from Howick (roughly 60km). At the same time the transfer of 4 gigabytes of data was started, using ADSL supplied via a Telkom line. The pigeon won, It makes for great reading and was a good example of how slow and unreliable the internet was/is in South Africa.
My grandfather and uncle used to breed racing pigeons and had large cages in the back yard where they kept the birds, and they used to win trophies for the many races that they won, and of course a few bucks behind the counter from the local bookies. They still seem to race them in the UK as I spotted a whole fleet of pigeon transportation vehicles just waiting to unleash pigeons galore.
In the UK pigeons perch on every available space, and nets cover the tops of many buildings and spikes are often used as a deterrent. In some countries raptors find pigeons to be a great source of food, and of course pigeons find humans to be a great source of food too.
So next time you see a pigeon, or feel his gimlet eye fall on you, give a thought to these humble birds that have saved lives, carried messages, ridiculed a telecommunications provider and crapped on as many statues as they could.