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HAPPY PIGEON APPRECIATION DAY!!

The purpose of Pigeon Appreciation Day is to spread the word that pigeons are wonderful birds that don’t deserve the dislike and hatred they often receive.

Pigeons are amazing. I could list down all the amazing things they can do and have done - such as saving peoples lives in WWI and WWII. Thirty-two pigeons received the PDSA Dickin Medal for their life-saving action in conflict! - but I believe the list would go on and on since there are so many wonderful things about pigeons.

Don’t believe me? Well have a look at the videos of our two disabled pigeons, Elmo and Georgie, and see how lovely pigeons are: www.youtube.com/PigeonsAsPets

So please don’t dismiss the humble feral pigeon. They are intelligent, caring, and loyal birds. They are also full of character – as anyone who has had close contact with a tame pigeon will testify!

There are many, many people around the world who, through rescuing an injured or orphaned pigeon, now have a wonderful companion living by their side. We, at Pigeons as Pets, have personally received emails from many of these people telling us their story and sharing photos and videos of their pet pigeons. We feel privaleged to see into their world.

I believe that by celebrating pigeons on this day every year for years to come we all will help dispel the myth that pigeons are dirty and diseased. Humans once loved pigeons – they were used for food and as messangers, and their faeces were highly prized as fertiliser – and I think we will learn to love pigeons once again! (But hopefully not to use them for food anymore.)

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Two feral pigeons

A good way to show your appreciation is to support a pigeon-friendly charity, sanctuary or organisation. Here are a some suggestions:

Last year there were many posts about Pigeon Appreciation Day, so I think we need to keep up with the good publicity and promote pigeons!! :D

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Celebration time!

Our previous years posts: www.pigeonsaspets.co.uk/category/pigeon-appreciation-day

Finally, Elmo and Georgie both want to thank you for all the suppport and love!! It is so nice to hear from you, especially when you share photos and videos of your wonderful pigeons!


There is a lot of symbolism surrounding pigeons and doves. This blog post explains a lot: Doves and pigeons have inspired rich symbolism

Other sites also discuss symbolism: Dove symbolism, Birds and Pigeons and doves in religion, myths, mythology and folklores.

I find it fascinating that pigeons were first viewed as symbols of peace, innocence and purity in many cultures. People must have seen how devoted and loyal pigeons are to each other and their young and found that inspiring. It is funny that some consider the ‘white dove’ a different species to feral pigeons, and therefore cleaner and purer, when they are one and the same (see: Is there a difference between a dove and a pigeon?). We all know that views about animals change continuously, according to the current zeitgeist, and what is considered a pest in one country is a national treasure in another.

I guess it is nice though that at least the ‘white dove’ is still pure in people’s minds. We just have to slip the thought that “white dove = pigeon” and maybe they’ll view the feral pigeon more kindly.

There’s a book about birds in myths and I’m wondering if it has anything about pigeons in it. Has anyone read it? It’s called: Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend and Superstition by Peter Tate

I haven’t read the following book either but it looks interesting: The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany by Graeme Gibson. It is said to contain drawings, paintings and essays about how birds feature in mythology and religions, from early cave paintings through to works created in the twentieth century.


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.


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:


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? :)


I think I first heard that birds will explode from eating uncooked rice from the TV sitcom, Cybill (episode “Bachelor Party”), however, it was years later when I saw an episode of The Simpsons where Bart heard that he shouldn’t throw rice at Otto’s wedding because the birds would explode if they ate it (in which, hilariously, Bart says something along the lines of “And why am I just hearing about this now?” and proceeds to take his camcorder out with a bag of rice) that brought this myth to my attention again.

Apparently some people genuinely believe that pigeons will explode if they eat uncooked rice. This is quite laughable really, but I admit that I believed it for a while myself (if The Simpsons say it, it must be true! Thinking like a true fan).

:)

I’ve searched the net for an answer on when and how this myth began and all I have found is that Ann Landers, a US advice columnist, warned readers in 1996 (correct me if I have the incorrect year) that throwing rice at weddings is bad for birds. Since then the myth has popped up in popular culture.

Here is the reason why uncooked rice cannot possibly explode a bird:

Uncooked rice expands by absorbing hot water (a temperature not found in a bird’s digestive system), and absorption from cold water occurs slowly. The acid in a bird’s digestive system would break down the rice long before the rice could significantly expand. On top of this, birds don’t drink vast amounts of water – not enough for rice to expand quickly.

For as long as mankind has been growing grains, birds have been eating them. In fact, uncooked grains and similar seeds make up the majority of many birds diets. Birds all over the world eat rice from rice fields and there have been no reports of mass deaths. If uncooked rice was bad for them then they wouldn’t eat it in such quantities.

So why have many churches and other wedding venues banned the throwing of rice at weddings? It’s not for the birds’ sake, rather for humans. Uncooked rice on hard surfaces can cause people to slip and fall. So for the safety of people, don’t throw rice at weddings. As for birds, rice (preferably pre-cooked) is a very welcome treat!