Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew D. Blechman. First published 2006. As reviewed and pictured: hardcover, 239 pages.
Rock Pigeons are thought to be native to Asia, though they are among the most widely distributed bird species on the planet today. Their natural breeding habitat, coastal cliff faces, is easily replaced by city skyscrapers in urban areas. But pigeons were thriving among humans well before the age of the skyscraper. It was via strong-flying pigeons that the results of the first Olympic Games, in 776 B.C., were distributed.
I learned this historical tidbit, and countless others, reading Blechman’s engaging Pigeons. The book follows several different modern interactions between pigeons and humans: high-stakes pigeon racing; pigeon shooting; fancy pigeon breeding; pigeon farming; pigeon rescue groups; and more.
I was especially interested by the chapters on pigeon racing, where the author closely followed one champion pigeon racer through parts of a racing season. In contrast, the chapters on pigeon shooting (a “sport” I was not even aware of until this book) and pigeon meat farming (ditto) were difficult for this admittedly biased pigeon-lover to read. Some chapters were more interesting than others, though I did learn something from each of the authors encounters with various types of pigeon people.
While I enjoyed the book, I felt that several topics were barely explored, leaving me wanting more. Topics like champion pigeon racing or the use of homing pigeons to deliver life-saving messages in times of war deserve books of their own, and I felt a bit cheated more than once when finishing a chapter of Pigeons. I guess that’s always a risk when covering such a varied topic in one book. I give Pigeons 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.