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The Pigeon - So Much More Than Rats With Wings.

Updated on January 1, 2011
Carrier Pigeons
Carrier Pigeons

Pigeons have really gotten a bad name over the years. So much so, that several cities (Chicago for one) have gone as far as to enact "pigeon law codes" for it's residences.

These codes include everything from banning, owning, and harboring pigeons, to managing or constructing any coop or cote for the sheltering of any live pigeon within any resident district - even the feeding of pigeons has been restricted!

In addition to health concerns due to the pigeons droppings, these under-appreciated birds are often considered a general nuisance by the mass majority.

Nevertheless, rarely has this bird been given the credit it so truthfully deserves.

* Casualties And Hero's Of War.

During World War I, among many other animal war heroes, a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami "delivered no fewer than 12 messages and never failed," stated The Times. Unfortunately, an estimated 20,000 pigeons were lost during that particular war.

* Their Role In the Medical Field.

In 1978, carrier pigeons were used to transport tissue and blood samples - in plastic containers - from Devonport Hospital to the Freedom Fields Laboratory at Plymouth, England.

They would regularly cover the two-mile (3-kilometer) distance in a mere four minutes, compared to the 12 minutes it took when taxis were used to carry the medical samples.

* Used In Rescue Work.

In 1987, pigeons were trained in a search-and-rescue operation called Project Sea Hunt. Due to the pigeons superior eyesight and concentration - compared to that of humans - they proved very effective as spotters.

During the training process, three pigeons were placed in a dome underneath a helicopter, each facing in a different direction. Trained to distinguish the colors of life jackets and rescue craft, the pigeons pecked at an indicator when such colored objects were spotted, and the indicator directed the pilot to fly in that direction.

While an object nearly two miles (3km) away may have appeared as a speck in the ocean to humans, it could be easily spotted by the sharp-eyed pigeon.

Compared to the human success rate of 40 percent in spotting objects in the ocean, pigeons scored 90 percent in their rescue work!

* The Intelligence Factor.

In addition to their ability to migrate long distances, scientist found that pigeons can sense the position of the moon even when they can't see it.

Science has also demonstrated that homing pigeons sense changes in the earth's magnetic field, can detect low-frequency sounds miles away, can see light waves we can't, can identify familiar odors, and can sense air-pressure changes.

* Their Contribution To Science.

In 2008, researchers at the University of Rajasthan, in northern India, stated that studies conducted on pigeons in Jaipur city showed that these birds could be used to measure city pollution. How so?

Well, heavy metals that are present in the habitat or environment the pigeon lives in, enters their feathers and remain even after they are shed.

Since pigeons normally live in a fixed area, the levels of lead, copper, chromium, and cadmium detected in their feathers may be an indicator of local pollution.

* Their Great Police Work.

In 1999, an 800-strong pigeon corps was still being used by a local police department in the Indian state of Orissa.

Although considered an archaic form of communication, the pigeons were the only reliable link between the town and the district headquarters of Cuttack, when floods devastated the town of Banki in 1982,

These pigeons had been a lifeline during cyclones and floods for over 50 years and were still considered practical when wireless communication broke down.

It's understandable to some extent, why there is a need for law codes concerning "pigeon population control."

Nevertheless, the good that they have done should not be forgotten. They are consequently, so much more than "rats with wings."

Find Out Some Other Interesting Facts About This Most Revered and Reviled Bird.


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    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      I never knew how awesome these underrated birds were myself. Thanks for your comment!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      7 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted awesome. The pigeon has been involved in a lot of heroics. This piece has been well done and is a tribute to the topic.

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      After completing this research LGrey, I had a better appreciation for pigeons. There are so many in my town and at times they seem to be a nuisance but once you get to really know them, you come to see just how awesome they are.

    • LGrey profile image


      7 years ago from Alabama

      I really enjoyed reading your hub. I raise homing pigeons, and I have heard "they are just rats with wings" more than once. They are such smart interesting birds. It is so sad to read that cities are banning people from owning and raising these birds.

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Hee!Hee! Thanks Pixel-Alchemist for the link. I'll have to check your hub out asap!

    • Pixel-Alchemist profile image


      8 years ago from Waitakere Auckland : New Zealand

      Your most welcome I really enjoyed your hub. I will be over the next day or so writing a related hub. so plan to link it to yours. You know what they say about birds of a feather

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you Pixel-Alchemist for taking the time to stop by, read, and comment.

    • Pixel-Alchemist profile image


      8 years ago from Waitakere Auckland : New Zealand

      A very informative hub about Pigeons. thanks for sharing

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      That is so awesome be able to work up close and personal with these awesome birds. Thanks for stopping by. I checked out your site and will do just this to your site.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      hi- really enjoy your site, loved the story. l breed pigeons and l love each and every one of them. working with them everyday ,you soon see just how smart they really are.if interested you can link to my site.


    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Yeah habee, pigeons are quite amazing. I have a better appreciation for them since this research.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      This is simply amazing! I've always thought pigeons were pretty, but I didn't know all this!

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you philip carey 61 for dropping by and sharing your experience. I have to say that before writing this hub, the pigeon was not a favorite bird of mine, but now my view of them has changed drastically.

    • profile image

      philip carey 61 

      9 years ago

      I used to raise pigeons as a kid in rural Michigan. I had tumblers and many fancy varieties. Wonderful animals.

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks BkCreative, I really had fun putting this hub together. I was truly fascinated by the pigeons many uses. It is sad however, like you said how we as man contribute greatly to the detriment of the enviornment and the animals that we share it with..

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      This is great Veronica Allen!

      - we destroy the environment and then blame the animals for trying to cope within the mess we made. If we can't use the creature - well then let's kill it.

      Homing pigeons always fascinated me. But now there's more - that bit about how in India they are used to measure pollution - and what about Project Sea Hunt - very interesting.

      Great hub - and to our friend the pigeon.

      This was fun! Thanks!

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks fastfreta. I like doing research on subjects like these. I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of the pigeon, but doing this research really instilled in me a greater respect for this underappreciated bird. I don't think they deserve the name "rats with wings". I believe in the end, that it is we as humans that contribute to the problem as well. Animals will be animals.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      You really did a lot of research for this hub. Good job. So many interesting facts, very enjoyable read. I am so awed by the things pigeons are taught to do, like carrying medical materials, search and rescue etc. So many points that I'd like to comment on, that it would take another hub, so I won't, you've done a great job on this.


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