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Incredible Facts About Pigeons

For the longest time, anyone in a city populated with pigeons has at least once referred to them as the “rats of the sky.” While they do indeed cause more of a mess when they gather in large numbers, they are far more remarkable than their reputation gives them credit for.

Known most commonly as the ‘Rock Pigeon’, these grey/white birds are some of the most interesting flying creatures we have on the planet. Here are some interesting facts you probably didn’t know about this misunderstood bird:

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1. They’re Surprisingly Powerful Birds

Maybe you’ve seen tons of them in the crowded cities you live in or you see a handful on your way into town from a rural community. Wherever you’ve seen them, these are the very same species of birds raised for competitive flying.

Often bred for special races, one particular bird fetched a substantial payday of $300,000. It has to be worth the price tag when these birds can hit speeds up to 110 miles per hour. They’re able to fly at speeds illegal for humans, thanks to a set of massive breast muscles that account for nearly half of their entire body weight.

2. They’re Private

It is true that we see dozen or sometimes hundreds of rock pigeons at a time, but take notice of their size. There isn’t a single youngling in the bunch. It is not until the bird has reached adulthood that they approach humans.

According to Nathanael Johnson, a writer for Rodale Wellness, there are two possible reasons:

Number 1: they are a breed adept at hiding their nest away from mischievous beaks or fingers.
Number 2: young pigeons, or squabs, stay with the nest until they’re all of their immature feathers are gone

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3. They Co-Parent

In the wild, it is pretty common to see a single parent raise children. But there are often rare instances where certain species of the creature have both parents care for their young. Such is the case with the common Rock Pigeon.

Both sexes are capable of secreting a mixture high in fats and proteins into a crop, the food storage pouch located somewhere in their throats. This special “milk” is regurgitated with food as additional nourishment for pigeon hatchlings.

4. They Mate for Life

In the animal kingdom, there are few creatures who mate for life with the first partner that helped birth offspring. Pigeons are one of those few exceptions. With a lifespan of up to 20 years old, this might explain why so many of them appear over the years in a single area.

5. They Can Find Their Way Home from 1300 Miles Away

Imagine being completely dulled of all senses and transported a great distance from your home. When pigeons are put in such isolation, they have no problem navigating the skies back home to the nest.

Thanks to their innate navigational skills, they’ve been used as messengers since 3000 BCE.

Ancient generals like Genghis Khan used pigeons to communicate with both his allies and enemies during his time.

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6. They Can Decipher Medical Images

With heads as small as they are, it’s a wonder the many things pigeons are capable of doing. Researchers trained a handful of birds to read medical images very accurately:

“We found pigeons to be remarkably adept a several medical image classification tasks. They quickly learned to distinguish benign from malignant breast cancer histopathology at all magnifications, a task that can perplex inexperienced human observers who typically require considerable training to attain mastery.”
You hear that, medical students? You have pigeons competing for your jobs.

7. They Can Tell One Person From Another

Two scientists conducted a study in Paris by both feeding the birds. Both were about the same height and weight, but their lab coats were not the same color. After dropping the food on the ground, the first researcher simply ignored the birds as they fed.

The second researcher behaves hostile towards the birds, shooing them away from the lunch they were trying to have.

Going back a second time, the researchers had another feeding session at the same park. This time, both scientists made no hostile movements, but only the previously hostile feeder was avoided in any way. Even trading lab coats were not enough to confuse the intelligent creatures.

What do you think of these pigeon facts? Does it put them in a different light?

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