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Pigeon Factfile (Columba livia)

The humble pigeon is a familiar sight in our parks, towns and railway platforms adding a welcome splash of colour on an otherwise drab and dreary day. They become a problem however when their presence clashes with our own activities.

We are often called to public buildings, food factories and railway stations to remove pigeons but always try to do so without harming them. They do carry harmful bacteria but we think they deserve respect and these interesting facts explain why:

  • Evidence of pigeons has been discovered by archaeologists in Mesopotamia (Modern Iraq) dating back to 3000BC.
  • The first biblical reference to the pigeon (Or dove) was in the Old Testament of the Bible in the first millennium AC and was the story of Noah and the Dove of Peace
  • Scientists have somehow discovered that pigeons can store up to 1000 images in their heads for a year.
  • Racing pigeons have been known to fly over 90 mph and cover 700 miles in a day.
  • In England in the 16th century pigeon guano was the only known source of saltpetre, an essential ingredient of gunpowder and considered to be a highly valued commodity as a result.
  • In the First World War mobile pigeon lofts were set up behind the trenches. They often had to fly through enemy fire and poison gas to get their messages home but still achieved a 98% success rate in the missions flown.
  • In Roman times the pigeon was used to carry results of sporting events, such as the Olympic Games. This is why white doves are released at the start of the Olympic Games today.
  • Many Sikhs feed pigeons ceremoniously to honour the high priest and warrior Guru Gobind Singh who was a known friend of the pigeon (Rock dove).
  • In the early 1800s the Rothschild family set up a network of pigeon lofts throughout Europe and used homing pigeons to carry information between its financial houses.
  • One racing pigeon recently sold for almost £300,000. The 3-year old bird was a champion racer, beating 21,000 other pigeons in one long distance race.
  • A champion racing pigeon can be released 400-700 miles away from its home and still return within the day.
  • Famous pigeon fanciers include Queen Elizabeth, who has lofts and pigeon keepers at her estate in Sandringham, Elvis Presley and Mike Tyson.
  • Last but not least, and probably the most famous of all … Noah! The dove that he released was most probably a homing pigeon

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