Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of the series I started with the May newsletter a year ago. I have used it as space has permitted.

17. PIGEONS AS LIFESAVERS. Although pigeons are one of the most intelligent of all the bird species, man has found limited uses for the birds other than for the purposes of sport, food, and as a message carrier. A team of navy researchers, however, has found that pigeons can be trained to save human lives at sea with high success rates. Project Sea Hunt has trained a number of pigeons to identify red or yellow jackets when floating in the water. The pigeons were not only found to be more reliable than humans, but they were also many times quicker than humans when it came to spotting survivors from a capsized or sinking boat. The pigeon can see colour in the same way that humans do, but they can also see ultra-violet, a part of the spectrum that humans cannot see, and thisis one of the reasons they are so well adapted to lifesaving.

18. PIGEONS IN THE NEWS. One of the world’s most famous news agencies, Reuters, started its European business by using trained homing pigeons. The service was started in 1850 with 45 pigeons carrying the latest news and stock prices from Aachen in Germany to Brussels in Belgium. Although the telegraph servivce between the two countries existed, numerous gaps in the transmission lines made communication difficult and slow. The birds travelled the 76 miles in a record-breaking two hours beating the railway by four hours.

19. WHY DO YOU NEVER SEE A BABY PIGEON? Most small birds rear and fledge their young in 2-3 weeks with young birds sometimes leaving the nest after only ten days of live, but pigeons are different. Their young remain in the nest for up to two months before fledging. This gives the young pigeon an advantage over many other species of birds. It leaves the nest as a relatively mature juvenile, allowing the bird to cope better in the first few days of its life, a danderous time for all youngsters. Juveniles can be told apart from adults, but it takes an experienced eye. A juvenile’s beak often appears to be far too long for the size of its body and the cere (the fleshy area at the top of the beak) is white in adults and greyish pink in juveniles.

20. WHAT IS THE NATURAL PREDATOR OF THE PIGEON? Although the natural enemy of the feral pigeon is now man, with millions of pigeons being killed in control operations the world over, it is the peregrine falcon this is the pigeons’ real natural predator. Although a shy and retiring bird that has its own natural habitat along rocky coastines, the peregrine is now being introduced into town and cities as a “natural pigeon control”. The peregrine is the fastest bird on the planet when in a dive and can achieve speeds in excess of 200 mph, over 130 mph faster than the pigeon.
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21 Amazing Facts About Pigeons con’d

21. ARE PIGEONS INTELLIGENT? Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet with pigeons being able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates. The pigeon has also been found the “mirror test” (being able to recognize its reflection in a mirror) and is only one of six species, and the only non-mammal, that has this ability. The pigeon can also recognize all 26 letters of the English language as well as being able to conceptualize. In scientific tests, pigeons have been found to be able to differentiate between photographs and even differentiate between two different human beings in a photograph when rewarded with food for doing so.


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