Illustrator and science writer Rosemary Mosco is the author of the new book, A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching. The book explores humanity’s long relationship with pigeons, from domestication thousands of years ago to fancy pigeon breeding in recent centuries. Rosemary's book not only breaks down the variations to look for in feral city pigeons, but also some of the most bizarre fancy breeds.
A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching
Written by Mark Bramhill
Mark Bramhill: This is BirdNote.
[Rock Pigeon flapping ML 167946961 and calls ML 69278]
Illustrator and science writer Rosemary Mosco is the author of the new book, A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching. It's a delightful dive into the surprising history of an unjustly maligned bird and what to look for in flocks of pigeons around your city. But while Rosemary has always been a birdwatcher…
[Rock Pigeon calls ML 167023011]
Rosemary Mosco: I was not always a fan of pigeons. The fascination really exploded when I was living in Toronto, and one day I was walking home from work and I saw a flock of pigeons in a nearby park. And one of them was eating this giant Kaiser bun. And I realized it was one I had seen a few times. And I started nicknaming him Kaiser in my head. And this pigeon was just really, really beautiful -- it had a lot of different colors. A largely white body, I think some blue on the wings and, like, a little blue cap on its head. And a few shiny feathers on its neck and just really looked almost like a Dalmatian or something. So I started to wonder, okay, well, why are some of the pigeons more colorful than others?
[Rock Pigeon calls ML 167946961]
Mark Bramhill: People and pigeons go wayyy back, to before written history. We domesticated them for meat and used their poop as fertilizer. They were so useful that they became prized possessions — and like designer dog breeds, people have been breeding fancy pigeons for centuries. And they’ve sometimes escaped or been released and wound up adding flair to feral flocks.
Rosemary Mosco: You wind up getting pigeons that are basically mutts of a whole bunch of different breeds. You'll see white ones or brown ones, or, you know, all blue ones or stripey blue ones. Sometimes they have fancy crests. Sometimes they have fancy feathered feet. They come in eye ring colors and toenail colors, and there's all sorts of different subtleties that all have to do with the different fancy breeds that are in their makeup.
Mark Bramhill: Rosemary's book not only breaks down the variations to look for in feral city pigeons, but also some of the most bizarre fancy breeds. Any part of a pigeon that you think is cool? There’s a breed that’s taken that to an extreme. Like Rosemary’s favorite breed, the Archangel pigeon.
Rosemary Mosco: This is a pigeon breed that basically takes the shininess of a pigeon's neck and spreads it over its entire body. So it's this like incredible bronze bird with these shiny green wing feathers. And it's just like this absolutely lustrous animal. And it's amazing that we've made that from, you know, a domesticated pigeon.
Mark Bramhill: You can learn so much more about these anything-but-ordinary birds in A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching. Find links at our website, BirdNote.org. I'm Mark Bramhill.
[Rock Pigeon flapping ML 167946961]
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Digital Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Rock Pigeon ML 69278 recorded by A. Priori, and Rock Pigeon ML 167023011 and ML 167946961 recorded by P. Marvin.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote November 2022
Narrator: Mark Bramhill
ID# moscor-01-2021-11-12 moscor-01