Darwin, Tesla, and Baby Pigeons

For the past few months two darling pigeons have been building their love nest above one of the window frames of Fair Folks & a Goat New Orleans. I happily observed the construction of their cozy nest, made from a careful selection of small twigs from around the neighborhood and the occasional thin red bar straw, an understandable mistake given our proximity to Frenchmen St. Many discussions were held about whether or not the scattering of discarded straws was too much of a nuisance and if the birds should be evicted from the porch, but they were allowed to stay, I think in part because Pete and Anthony realized that I had already bonded with our feathered guests and they didn’t want to break my heart.

Given the amount of time that I spent watching my new friends build their nest, I was rather disturbed a week ago when I noticed that the adult pigeons seemed to have abandoned it suddenly. This sentiment quickly turned into outright depression when I also noticed the first cries of hunger coming from the nest, in the form of pathetic baby bird chirps. My depression worsened over the course of three days wherein I tried my best to convince myself that nature has its own order and that short of chewing up worms and regurgitating them into the bird’s mouths myself, there was nothing I could do. To say that I was upset is an epic understatement.

Yesterday Pete, David, and I were sitting on the front porch and Pete told me that the mama pigeon had returned to feed the birds the previous evening. I took this as Pete’s kind attempt to make me feel better, and a complete lie. Still in a deep depression over my dying baby birds, I can say with confidence that when the mother pigeon swooped across the porch and landed on the ledge overhead I felt a rare kind of joy that most people are lucky to ever experience in a lifetime.

This experience has made me think about the prejudices that we have regarding the world around us, that which we deem “cute” or “beautiful” and that which seems not worth our affections. I tried calling the Orleans Parish bird rehabilitation contact person last week when I found a pigeon with a broken wing and she laughed at me when I asked if she would fix it. I don’t understand how pigeons have fallen so far in perceived value rankings; in victorian times they were considered beautiful, nobel birds, and even Charles Darwin was a pigeon enthusiast. Nikola Tesla was downright obsessed with pigeons, and he was a genius.

Tesla’s favorite pigeon, 1855

Pablo Picasso loved pigeons so much that they regularly appeared in his paintings and he even named his daughter in honor of the beautiful birds (Paloma translates to “dove” or “pigeon” in Spanish).

From scientific and artistic inspiration to companionship and communication, pigeons have played many important roles throughout human history, and the fact that our relationship to them has changed so drastically is really quite sad. Regardless of how our society at large currently views pigeons, the important point here is one of compassion and tolerance; the dignity and respect that we show nature is a reflection of the way we view each other and ourselves.

If you would like to visit the newest (and smallest) additions to the Fair Folks family, feel free to stop by any time. David will be serving tea all weekend, and I’d be happy to talk at great length about how much I adore the baby birds. Also, if you’re feeling inspired and can think of any good bird names you should leave them in the comments below.

If you want to learn more about how amazing and intelligent pigeons are, follow this link.




3 responses to “Darwin, Tesla, and Baby Pigeons

  1. You left out Mike Tyson. No one loves pigeons as much as Mike Tyson.

  2. I’m reading Super Dove (great book) now! Finches get all the cred, but it’s really pigeon that inspired Darwin’s theory.

    have you seen the ‘rollers’? some roll on the ground, but I like these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGwDOzpTcgs

  3. I’ll be sure to check out that book. It sounds like something I’d really enjoy!

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