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How do pigeons think? What’s going on in their little brains? It is a mystery that can induce controversy in the scientific realm, however, it is a mystery that we love to wonder about. Do pigeons think like us humans – with words? Or do they think with pictures of objects and memories? Like a movie reel across their mind?

How they think is a question I cannot answer, but what they think of? Well, I can answer that to some extent. There is no doubt in my mind what Elmo is thinking of when he walks across the room, hops onto the sofa and makes a beeline to the peanut jar. There is no hesitation, no pause – Elmo is thinking of peanuts and he’s going to get them. He knows where the peanuts are kept and nothing is stopping him from eating them.

It is actually quite remarkable to watch. One minute Elmo is on the floor exploring the flat when suddenly his head will shoot up, he’ll freeze for a moment, and then he’ll turn towards the sofa and head that way. Peanuts have entered his mind.

Georgie is a little harder to read, however, I can usually tell when she wants a drink. Her body language and movements tip me off, and I know Georgie is thinking of a nice cool drink of water.

Sometimes I wonder what Georgie and Elmo are thinking of when they drift off to sleep on our laps. They look so content and serene – all puffed up in their relaxed way. Are they thinking of how wonderful it is to be safe and warm with their loved ones? Are the images of the day playing through their mind – the best bits making them smile? – I like to think so.

I hope they have many good memories to think about – and there will hopefully be many more to come.


Georgie having a nap.


"All mine," thinks Elmo.


"Mmm, peanuts!"

There’s not been much happening this weekend – just a few things about George. Yesterday, after a short shopping spree in town, we return to find Georgie’s cage all wet and her chest soaked – she had been trying to have a bath in her small water bowl. I immediately grabbed a wide shallow dish, filled it with warm water and placed it on the floor. Usually I have to swish my fingers in the water for a while to get Georgie to have a bath, however, this time, as soon as I placed her in the water she started swishing the water herself with her beak – the carpet got completely soaked (as did I!!)! I could see how happy she was to have a full soak and she obviously had lots of fun splashing me!

Today my husband saw some blood on Georgie’s beak and after investigating a bit he saw that one of her tail feathers is a bit weird looking and had blood dried to it. It looks like it is growing abnormally and Georgie has been trying to preen it out and caused the feather to bleed. We’re not worried too much because there hasn’t been a lot of blood but we will be keeping an eye on it and whether we’ll have to pluck it out (ouch! Not something I want to do). It must be sore. Poor girl!

As many of you know, Georgie stays during the day in her cage on the week-days while we’re at work and when we return home we find her cage a mess. It’s clear that she keeps herself busy with eating, ripping up the newspaper and playing with the water in her water bowl. I sometimes worry how she finds her food – being semi-blind – however, I have watched her gobble up the seed from her bowl so I know she is eating well.

Today though I watched something new in her feeding behaviour: Georgie stood in her food bowl and tried to find food on the floor!! What a character!! :)

Every time she moved she kicked seed out of the bowl and she then concentrated on trying to peck the seed off of the floor. I tried removing her and rattling the seed bowl to get her to realise that the seed is in the bowl, however, she just went back to her little game. So I left her to it and she spent a good half hour finding her food. At least it keeps her busy!

Ps. Maybe I should get her a wider bowl for her to sit in? That way she can swish and kick about to her hearts delight and the majority of the seed should stay in the bowl.

A special little birdie arrived at my work in the beginning of September: A tiny newly hatched baby collared dove that we weren’t sure would survive the first night – he was so small!

We popped him into a nest in an incubator for warmth and he received regular but small amounts of food throughout the first few days  – and much to our pleasure he survived and grew slowly but surely.

We call this special little guy Widget. :)


Widget - only about 5 days old

After being a week with us Widget received a friend – a bigger and older collared dove who immediately fell in love with him. The two keep each other company and love to be snuggled up together in their nest.


Widget (left) and his new brother/sister

At the moment both Widget and his new brother or sister are very friendly and have an adorable coo to attract our attention for food. With time both shall grow into healthy independant collared doves and will be released with other doves when ready.

I think this documentary about pigeons and disease needs to be posted on its own so that you all get a chance to view it. You may find parts of it hard to watch, however, it is a really informative documentary and well worth the watch.

Took this photo the other day and I love it! :D


Dora peering from her nest with Pidge watching

I also like these two of Georgie scratching her head:



Dora’s aviary at my work isn’t 100% finished – there are a few adjustments and redesigns needed. One cannot expect to get everything right the first time, however, the aviary is nearly perfect as it stands. After seeing how the pigeons use the aviary and what things are missing or obsolete, I can now come up with a few jobs for the handyman at work to sort out. Knowing how slowly these things can go (some days I wish I had the know-how to be the handyman so I could do the job myself!) I have done some make-shift things in the aviary in the meantime.

One thing that was needed were nests for the pigeons and after searching the net for sturdy pigeon nests, I found a supplier that had some in stock. However, due to the suppliers ignorance in packaging, both lots of nests arrived broken. I promptly received a refund and was told that they wouldn’t ship any replacements out to me unless I placed a bigger order. Needless to say I was not happy and almost told them where to stick their nests!

Other suppliers didn’t have any in stock so I had to resort to putting up temporary nests of different materials and sizes that I found unused at work. Dora received an old basket which she happily explored and accepted as a suitable nest:


Dora and Pidge investigating their new nest


Dora feels quite comfortable in her 'compact' nest

On the other end of the aviary (where the shelf is wider. … Widening the shelf on Dora’s side is one of the jobs on the handyman’s list) Lord Nelson and Maddie get the only nest that wasn’t completely broken in transit, while Fleur and Marmalade get a plastic food dish.


Lord Nelson (left) and Marmalade (right) are on egg duty!

Now who said that pigeons pair for life? Poor Horatio boy has been dumped by his former mate, Peaches, who chose to pair up with Big Bob after his mate recently died. Peaches has been desperate to make a nest and must have realised that the hutch which Big Bob sleeps in is the best place – so she promptly left Horatio and shacked up with Big Bob! Scandal!!


Peaches (left) with her new mate Big Bob (right)

I found a small wicker basket and attached that onto Horatio’s shelf to entice Peaches back to him, however, he’s been left to coo all alone in it:


Horatio on his own - poor boy!

I do feel sorry for Horatio because he was single for so long until Peaches came along – and now she’s left him! Big Bob had lived with his former mate for over 5 years so he’s had company and love. I think he should tell Peaches to go back to Horatio!

I guess I will just have to wait for some female disabled or fancy pigeons to turn up at work to pair up with Horatio (and Stanley and Marmaduke who are also single).

People who dislike or fear pigeons often say that pigeons carry disease that can be passed on to humans. This is their main argument – that pigeons are dirty and diseased. However, what truth is there to this? And what is the real issue?

First of all, all animals – humans included – carry diseases. This is just a fact of life and most people are happy to live their life without worrying that they’ll catch something from another person or their pet dog. Yes, dogs and cats in fact can carry the same number of diseases as pigeons!

The real question is can these diseases be transmitted to humans? Infectious diseases that are transmitted to humans from non-human animals and vice versa are called zoonotic diseases. The answer to the question above is yes, some of the diseases that pigeons may carry can be transmitted to humans, however, the method of transmission is not straight forward. So rest assure – you’re very very unlikely to catch a deadly disease by touching a pigeon! (Please continue to read – quotes from experts on this matter towards the end of this post!)

Let’s put a couple of things into perspective: Human beings carry disease, and there are too many human diseases in the world to count. I haven’t got any medical books to reference, so I cannot give you any figures, however, I’m sure that if you research human diseases you’ll find more than you can stomach.

Here are a few of the zoonotic diseases and parasites that can be caught from cats: Feline cowpox, toxoplasmosis, toxocariasis, ringworm, roundworm, hookworm, feline conjunctivitis, pasteurellosis, salmonella, cat scratch disease (cat scratch fever, bartonellosis), helicobacter pylori, mycobacteria turburculosis, rotavirus, rabies, chlamydia and giardia.

A few from dogs: Brucellosis, campylobacter, hydatid disease, pasteurellosis, rabies, ringworm, roundworm, hookworm, toxocariasis, zoonotic diphtheria, rotavirus, cryptosporidia, giardia, leptospirosis, sarcoptic mange or scabies and fleas.

And here are some zoonotic diseases that pigeons can carry: Chiamdiosis, psittacosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, chlamydia psittaci and campylobacter jejuni.

In an article by Robinson and Pugh called “Dogs, zoonoses and immunosuppression”, they state that “dogs are the source of a wide range of zoonotic infections that pose a significant threat to human health.” Robinson, RA and Pugh, RN. (2002). Dogs, zoonoses and immunosuppression. The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health 122: 95-98

What a statement! But you don’t see many of us panicking about dogs and disease! Rarely do I hear someone say “Dogs are diseased and dirty.” However, pigeons are viewed by many in a very unfair light – just because they can potentially carry disease, much like any other animal out there in the world.

The real issue is whether pigeons pose a threat to the public and your health. This is very easy to answer: No, they do not. (See quotes below from the experts!) I think Steve Harris put it very nicely in his article about pigeons on this subject: “Many websites list the diseases recorded in feral pigeons. How very scary. But let’s put this in context – many more diseases are known in people and their pets. Moreover, all animals carry diseases: the key issue is how often they transfer to humans, and there is little evidence of this happening with feral pigeons. Plus, domestic pigeons often come into contact with feral pigeons but stay perfectly healthy. In other words, feral pigeons simply do not pose a significant health risk. It’s a non-issue.” Harris, S. (2010). BBC Wildlife magazine 28 (10): 52-57

“It’s a non-issue” – something I wish would catch on. … So why all the bad press? Why are pigeons viewed as diseased birds that will kill you if they touch you? Unfortunately it is all down to greed. Pest control companies see pigeons as a continuous resource of money (since pest control methods are highly ineffective in the long term) and have spread misinformation and exaggerated things – thus spreading fear and ignorance in the public.

In turn, local councils have also been fed this misinformation and are trying to deal with the ‘pigeon problem’ in many towns and cities. In many council websites there is usually a page on pigeons and disease and they always state the fact that pigeons pose a health risk, however, I don’t see much in the way of scientific research or references backing up their claims (the same goes for websites for pest control companies).

Guy Merchant, the founder of the Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS), states, “We are the only independent source of unbiased information out there. By comparison, the pest control industries are only motivated by greed. They invest millions of dollars each year on anti-pigeon propaganda and misinformation. It’s entirely unethical. In fact, there are no ethics involved at all. Believe you me, the world hates pigeons because of them.” Blechman, Andrew D. (2006). Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird. Grove Press, New York.

Here are what the experts say (from Do birds spread disease?):

  • On the subject of pigeons and disease, Dr. Nina Marano (an epidemiologist) states that “Pigeons are no more filthy than any other wild bird or animal,” while Dr. Arturo Casadevall (an expert in pigeon faeces) states, “Pigeons are no different than other animals. When it comes to spreading disease, they don’t stand out.” Blechman, Andrew D. (2006). Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird. Grove Press, New York.
  • Mike Everett, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said, in The Big Issue Magazine, February 2001: “The whole ‘rats with wings’ thing is just emotive nonsense. There is no evidence to show that they (pigeons) spread disease.”
  • The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, when addressing the House of Lords in 2000 on the issue of intimate human contact with the then 7,000-8,000 pigeons feeding in Trafalgar Square, was asked if this represented a risk to human health. The Chief Veterinary Officer told The House that in his opinion it did not.
  • Charlotte Donnelly, an American bird control expert told the Cincinnati Environment Advisory Council in her report to them: “The truth is that the vast majority of people are at little or no health risk from pigeons and probably have a greater chance of being struck by lightening than contracting a serious disease from pigeons.”
  • Guy Merchant, Director of The Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS International) says, when talking about the transmission of disease by pigeons: “If we believed everything we read in the media about the health risks associated with pigeons, and the farcical propaganda distributed by the pest control industry, we would never leave our homes. The fact of the matter is that there is probably a greater risk to human health from eating intensively farmed supermarket chicken and eggs, or having contact with domestic pets such as cats, dogs and caged birds, than there is from contact with pigeons.”
  • David A Palmer (B.V.Sc., M.R.C.V.S) said in an article entitled ‘Pigeon Lung Disease Fatality and Health Risk from Ferals’: “Obviously, since all these Allergic Extrinsic Alveolitis disease syndromes rely on the involved person having a very specific allergy before any disease, involving respiratory distress and very unusually death, can possibly be seen, it really makes absolute nonsense for a popular daily newspaper to suggest that pigeons present a health hazard and presumably need eliminating for the well-being of the nation’s health.”
  • David Taylor BVMS FRCVS FZS: “In 50 years professional work as a veterinary surgeon I cannot recall one case of a zoonosis in a human that was related to pigeons. On the other hand I know of, and have seen, examples of human disease related to contact with dogs, cats, cattle, monkeys, sheep, camels, budgies, parrots, cockatoos, aquarium fish and even dolphins, on many occasions.”
  • The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, the New York City Department of Health, and the Arizona Department of Health all agree that diseases associated with pigeons present little risk to people. “We have never documented a pigeon to human transmission in the state of Arizona,” said Mira J Leslie, Arizona’s state public health veterinarian.
  • In response to questions about the effects of pigeons on human health, in 1986 the Association of Pigeon Veterinarians issued a statement that concludes, “…to our knowledge, the raising, keeping, and the exercising of pigeons and doves represents no more of a health hazard than the keeping of other communal or domestic pets.”

As you can see, pigeons pose little threat to us. However, if you aren’t convinced, please visit the following websites: http://www.picasuk.com/index.html and http://www.urbanwildlifesociety.org/zoonoses/

The following video is an excellent documentary on feral pigeons, disease and pest control. Some scenes are distressing to view, however, it is well worth the watch because of the information relayed:

Elmo likes to keep watch over me – to make sure I don’t overstep my place or do anything he thinks is unacceptable – especially if my husband (Elmo’s perceived mate) is not around. If I’m at my desk on my laptop – usually when I’m typing up a post – Elmo will hop onto Richard’s desk and walk over to the edge and peer around the computer to see what I’m doing (since my desk is next to Richard’s).

Another favourite spot to keep guard is on the sofa. Elmo has his side and I’m not allowed to sit there. No discussion.

So if I’m sitting a bit too close to his territory Elmo will stand by the territory line and watch me. Sometimes he’ll doze off a bit but every time I move he’ll open his eyes to check what I’m doing.

I think that maybe Elmo is making sure that Georgie and I don’t try to steal the prime nesting spot on the sofa. He’s protecting it so that when Richard returns from work they can ‘nest’ together. :)


Elmo right on the territory line. Actually, his toe is on my side!


The ever watchful gaze of a gorgeous pigeon!

The myth surrounding pigeons exploding after being fed rice relies upon the ‘fact’ that pigeons can’t pass wind (either end).

I often have Elmo laying on my chest while I watch TV. He’ll be as happy as larry with me stroking him and ‘preening’ him, his beak only millimeters from my nose when I hear a distinct, although very faint, rumble, followed by a pop and then the unmistakeable aroma of peanuts! Thanks Elmo, really.

Now for my next discovery… I wonder if Elmo will eat baked beans? :)

We are planning to visit the Seychelles some year soon and one of the things on my to-do list is to observe the bird life there. (I’m afraid I’m one of those people who enjoys doing things on a holiday – lying on the beach doing nothing isn’t something I like to experience more than once on a holiday. Since I will never get that sun-kissed look I don’t see the point in trying. Seeing the sights and doing some activities is more my thing.)

Richard is half Seychellois so he’s quite eager to take me out to see his old haunts. Although I’m not the most comfortable in humid, hot climates (I am half Finnish after all!) the Seychelles islands look like amazingly beautiful places to visit and I’m quite eager to do so.

There are apparantly 6 species of pigeons/doves that can be found in the Seychelles (out of 308 species in the world), which are:

  1. Seychelles Blue-Pigeon Alectroenas pulcherrima (an endemic species)
  2. Comoro Blue-Pigeon Alectroenas sganzini
  3. Madagascar Turtle-Dove Streptopelia picturata
  4. Eurasian Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur (species rarely or accidentally occurs there)
  5. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata (an introduced species)
  6. Rock Pigeon Columba livia (an introduced species)

Click on the names above for information on the pigeons.

There are a couple of books I will most likely need for the trip to help me with bird identification over there (I better start saving!):

Product Image

by Adrian Skerrett (Paperback)
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by Mike Hill (Paperback)
The blue pigeons of Seychelles look really funky – love their red faces! :) When we finally go there I hope to sight many of them and will report back on my findings.

Seychelles Blue Pigeon

Comoro Blue Pigeon

Madagascar Turtle-dove