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It’s great that young children are learning about pigeons. Hopefully they won’t grow up to fear or dislike feral pigeons. (Thank you Dawn for this link!)

Kindergarteners learn about pigeons

The Brooklyn New School kindergarten has been studying pigeons!  Teacher Kori Goldberg writes,” We have been  studying pigeons this fall by observing them in our Brooklyn neighborhoods, reading about pigeons, comparing them to other birds through a focus on bird’s feet and beaks and by creating pigeons out of found materials.  We also sing a song about pigeons!  We are having a great time and will conclude this part of our studies by inviting families to our ‘Pigeon Museum’.

A few years ago  I asked a child why he thought pigeons bob their head when they walk.  At first he said, “Kori, I don’t know.”  But then he thought and added, “Maybe the wind is their music and they are keeping the beat with their heads.”

Our children always have more questions about pigeons…”

So the kindergarteners wrote to Celebrate Urban Birds and Project PigeonWatch staff and sent their drawings and asked the following questions:

Olivia, Brooklyn New School

Olivia’s pigeon drawing.

Notice the sky and sidewalk, two really important parts of a Rock Pigeon’s environment!

Question from kids: Do pigeons migrate to warmer climates?

Answer:  No, although even the common feral pigeons that we see in our cities have the same amazing ability find their way home over hundreds of miles that homing or racing pigeons do, they seldom fly away from their home territory.    They like to be near their nest and the birds that they know.

Anselm, Brooklyn New School

Anselm’s pigeon drawing

This is an imaginative version of what a ‘blue-bar’ morph or color of pigeon looks like.  Fun!

Question: Why do we see so few Red pigeons in our neighborhood?

Answer:  Scientists don’t understand why different colors of pigeons still exist among feral pigeons.  The word ‘feral’ means that these pigeons were once domesticated, and raised by man, and then escaped and now live on their own.  Men bred pigeons to look different; different colors, feather shapes, sizes-there are many kinds of fancy domestic pigeons.  We would expect that when pigeons are on their own, making their own decisions about who to mate with, that the wild type of coloring, the Blue-bar, would be most common, but specially colored pigeons still exist, and that is puzzling.  If you are seeing fewer Reds in your neighborhood it could be because if a  Red parent matches up with a Blue-bar parent, the babies will be Blue-bar, probably.  Or it could be that hawks can see the Reds better and hunt them more successfully, so there are fewer Reds!  Keep watching and maybe you will find out some answers.

Julian, Brooklyn New School

Julian’s pigeon drawing

Question: Why do birds fly?

Answer:  It’s hard to say why…to get away from predators, or to find food, or move about more easily?  But it is interesting that birds have been around for millions of years longer than humans.  Birds are really like living dinosaurs, they’ve been on earth for so long!  Humans like us have been around for maybe 125,000 years but birds have been around for 136 million years!

Kiara, Brooklyn New School

Kiara’s pigeon drawing

Question: What do pigeons eat?

Answer: Rock pigeons eat seeds, fruit, bread, popcorn, peanuts, acorns, grain, and lots of leftovers that humans leave lying around.  They help clean up after us! (We like how Kiara’s drawing shows some of the things in the habitat around her school…a tree with a hole in it, swings, sun, a slide…all things important for kids AND pigeons!

Kim, Brooklyn New School

Kimani’s pigeon drawing

We like how Kimani is noticing the beak, feet, toes and overall body shape of the pigeon.  Learning these things will help you recognize different birds!  The beak is good for picking up seeds off the ground.  The body shows that the pigeon has a lot of flying muscles in their breast…they can fly 60 miles per hour, and fly fast for several hours at a time if they have to!  They have short legs with three toes forward and one toe backwards, which makes it easy for them to walk and perch.

Paloma, Brooklyn New School

Paloma’s Pigeon drawing

Look how Paloma has noticed the shiny color on the neck of the pigeon, usually pink and green!  If you look carefully you will see that the pigeon is not plain grey, usually, but has black, purple, green, white, and maybe red colors in its feathers, too.

Simone, Brooklyn New School

Simone’s pigeon drawing

Simone says she always sees checkers, and has drawn the little pattern of light and dark that the Checker colored pigeons have on their wings.  Beautiful!  And she has noticed other features of the habitat…trees, plants, and bushes, that might provide seeds and fruits that pigeons could eat, as well as protection if a hawk flies overhead looking for pigeon-dinner.  If you see pigeons running away they might be watching the sky and they might see something we humans might not notice.  Pigeons can be used to search for people lost at sea…they can see tiny things far away.  Pigeons usually nest on a flat surface like the ledge of a building,  terrace,  porch, in an attic, or under a bridge.

Sam, Brooklyn New School

Sam’s pigeon drawing

Sam has noticed the bars on the wings of the Blue-bar pigeon, the most common color morph.  He shows the pigeon walking on the ground.  Pigeons are part of a whole family of birds that bob their head back and forth when they walk.  Scientists wonder why this is, but think that they keep their head still while their body moves forward, so they can see details like seeds, bugs, and predators more clearly.  If you watch them walk you will see that their head is still, in one position, while their body moves underneath them, then the head moves forward and is held still again while they take another step.

Other questions:

Do pigeons speak?

Yes, pigeons make all sorts of cooing sounds, to communicate with each other.  Babies squeak to tell their parents that they want food, and grown-up pigeons sing a complicated series of coos when they are pairing up and trying to impress each other.  They make a worried, louder coo when there is danger nearby, and males generally coo louder than females.

Why do birds eat seeds?

Seeds contain protein and carbohydrate that help the birds build strong bones, healthy feathers, and have the energy to fly and walk around.  Also the females have to produce eggs, so they have to eat a lot to be able to create eggs inside their bodies with all the food the babies need while they are growing inside the eggs.  But baby birds don’t eat seeds!  They eat this amazing substance that both the mother and father pigeon make in their throat, called ‘crop milk’.

Do pigeons fly in a flock?

Yes, sometimes pigeons gather together in a big group and fly together.  It’s hard for a hawk to pick out just one bird to eat when there are hundreds all flying together!  Also many birds being on the look-out help the others know when danger is near, or when they should get out of the way of a person or car.

Why do pigeons run away when they see people?

Actually, pigeons are quite relaxed around people compared to some birds.  If you feed them they learn to recognize you and will come when they see you walking down the street.  They will often let you pick them up without struggling, or will come sit on your shoulder.  But some people don’t like pigeons and might try to step on them or push them away, so the pigeons have learned to stay away until they can trust and recognize a person who treats them well and feeds them without hurting them.

From: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/celebration/birds/brooklyn-new-school-kindergarten

I just love to read about children becoming interested in pigeons. I believe all children should grow up with nature and animals in their life – either in observing wildlife or having a pet animal (for more on my views on the subject please go to: Pigeons for children).

The following website, about a young girl who does a project on pigeons, is a joy to read: Independent Research Project – Pigeons

And her beautiful project: Pigeon Lapbook

Richard and I are of the opinion that children should grow up with animals in their lives.

We believe that a child’s life is enriched when it is spent with a loved animal. Yes, it is a fact that many animals have a shorter lifespan than humans and will die whilst the child is growing up. Although it will be painful to loose a beloved pet, the joy, love and beauty of sharing your life with an animal is too rewarding to miss out on.

Both my husband and I grew up with animals during our childhood and we have both experienced the joys of playing with and caring for wonderful animals and the heartache they caused us when they died. Sometimes the heartache is too painful to think about but death is something nobody can avoid. One day Elmo and Georgie will leave us, which will break our hearts.

I hope that both Elmo and George will still be with us when we have children. If they aren’t then we’ll have more pigeons and animals in our life for our future children to learn how to respect other living creatures, how to care for them, to learn about life and death, and to experience all the lovely things animals do.

I have begun to search for children books with pigeons as the main subject. Here are some I found (all of which I haven’t read… yet):

My favourite animals to care for (besides pigeons of course) are rats, gerbils, guinea-pigs and dogs. I also want to care for donkeys at some point (I’m a big donkey fan!!). But pigeons are number one! :)

Hopefully our future home will be filled with a variety of animals.

I have to say that one thing I really cannot stand is seeing children chasing pigeons. I didn’t even like to see it when I was a kid myself. I guess it is exciting and fun for some kids to chase a pigeon but all I can think about is the poor pigeon that is trying to find food and doesn’t want to be bothered and chased. I believe in respecting the life of animals. Children can have fun with pigeons in other ways such as feeding pigeons in a park or in a garden. I saw the following link on a pigeon forum and thought it was great that a website aimed at kids have written about not pestering pigeons (as well as other animals). Have a read: Don’t Pester the Pigeons!