Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can Pigeons change the world?

OK, it's Day One.  And another unlikely day of winter sun here in the Pacific Northwest: richly angled beams slant in through the plum tree's half-naked branches, little Coco from next door races around at my feet flashing whatever cute she can muster in a frenzy to be petted, and with another 2 chapters of Pigeons under my belt, the morning opens up before me.  Ah, the glamorous life.

So.  To the experiment! 

I'm starting in the middle of Pigeons by Andrew Blechman.  So far, it's an utterly engaging book, and it's all about, well, pigeons.  Who'da thunk?

Today I read Chapters 10 and 11: "Great Expectations" and "The Old Bird's Birds". 

The jist.   (Summarizing is one of the few tried-and-true, research-supported, time-tested methods for increasing understanding and making learning stick, so I'm gonna practice what I've preached to my students and DO IT now.)
Ch. 10:  Pigeons are navigational wunderkinds whose abilities at "homing" still elude full understanding, even after some serious pondering by current neurobio wonks from Cornell. 
Ch. 11: Pigeon racing has recently risen to an astonishingly lucrative $$$$-making sport in Japan and Taiwan while declining in places like the U.S. where less messy leisure pursuits (e.g. video gaming and blogging) reign supreme.  Pidg-knapping has gone viral in parts of Asia, and in Belgium the company "Natural" racks up cash as the emerging global dominator of all products pidgeon.

Curiouser and Curiouser (a nifty idea or fact or three):
Did you know that racing pigeons find their way home through a still-mysterious combination of vision (they navigate in part based on the position of the sun and use local landmarks to guide them when they get to familiar turf), magnetism (cells in their upper beaks sport iron, so they can actually get where they want to go blindfolded if they have to), and hearing (they can sense the wind rising over a mountain range hundreds of miles away, so if their beaks are on the fritz, they can still get pretty close to home)? 
I didn't until this morning.  Guess I need to cultivate a little more respect for the miraculous in these dully pedestrian birdies from now on.

Questions:  Do pigeon racers or fancy breeders rock on right here in Bellingham?  Or do our local eagles and hawks prevent men from indulging their bird racing whims?  Are chickens the uber-suburban-rural birdies while pigeons rule the cities like Vancouver & Seattle? 
Can a fascinating book, so engagingly crafted, well-focused, and funny, but clearly limited in scope, actually change my world?

Action Step Ideas:
a.  Take a walk up the street, over the interurban path through the wetlands, and onto the suburban circle street that overlooks the San Juan Islands.  Stop at the funky house with the huge white laughing buddha across from the grey cherubic boy who pees a fountain alongside a cement St. Francis blessing the koi pond under the gushing waterfall covered in netting to repel racoons in the front yard.  See if there are still bird coops in the backyard and if those still contain pigeons.  Strike up a conversation with the house's owner if so (or even if not!).
b.  Do a little research on the interwebs... Whassup with pigeons in B'ham?  How can we enjoy and support these modest yet miraculous birds?  Hamsters want to know!

I'll check in with y'all tomorrow to let you know how it all went down.



Dave said...

Thanks for upping my appreciation of these seemingly mundane birds. I look forward to more installments!

Laurie P. said...

Thanks, Dave. Stay tuned for more enlightening and hopefully intriguing posts!

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