Today was an unseasonably warm day, one of those times when January throws you a bone so you don't give up on spring. Soooo sunny! the pigeons in my neighborhood thought so too. The Jersey City pigeons seem to clump up and sun themselves in the small park near my house and today they were really in heaven! what, you hate pigeons? they are flying rats who spread disease and sh*t everywhere? well yeah, sometimes it seems that way (and under overpasses and on top of statues is that way), but how much do you really know about them? They have quite a history, and it seems they may have kinda been the first internet...
Check it out:
During the First World War a pigeon named Cher Ami (Dear friend) saved the lives of many French soldiers by carrying a message across enemy lines in the heat of battle. Cher Ami was shot in the chest and the leg, loosing most of the leg to which the message was attached, but continued the 25 minute flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to get the message home. Cher Ami was awarded the French ‘Croix de Guerre’ for heroic service. Another heroic pigeon named G.I. Joe saved the lives of a thousand soldiers in World War 2 after British troops had established a position within an Italian town that was due to be bombed by allied planes. Communication equipment was down and the only means of stopping the raid was to attach a hastily written message to G.I. Joe and send him to the HQ. G.I. Joe flew 20 miles in 20 minutes arriving at the air base whilst the planes were taxiing on the runway. Disaster was averted with 5 minutes to spare. G.I. Joe received the ‘Dickin’ medal for his bravery.
Pigeons in Wall Street
One of the richest and most famous families in the world amassed its wealth, certainly in part, as a result of exploiting the pigeon. In the early 1800’s the Rothschild family set up a network of pigeon lofts throughout Europe and used homing pigeons to carry information between its financial houses. This method proved to be quicker and more efficient than any other means of communication available at the time. The speed of the service combined with the ability to send and receive information ahead of the competition helped the Rothschild family amass a fortune which still exists today.
Pigeons in the news
One of the world’s most famous news agencies, Reuters, started its European business by using trained homing pigeons. The service was started in 1850 with 45 pigeons carrying the latest news and stock prices from Aachen in Germany to Brussels in Belgium. Although a telegraph service between the two countries existed, numerous gaps in the transmission lines made communication difficult and slow. The birds travelled the 76 miles in a record-breaking two hours beating the railway by four hours.
Are pigeons intelligent?
Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet with pigeons being able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates. The pigeon has also been found to pass the ‘mirror test’ (being able to recognise its reflection in a mirror) and is one of only 6 species, and the only non-mammal, that has this ability. The pigeon can also recognise all 26 letters of the English language as well as being able to conceptualise. In scientific tests pigeons have been found to be able to differentiate between photographs and even differentiate between two different human beings in a photograph when rewarded with food for doing so.
So pigeons... Brave heroes, amazing work ethic, extreme navigators, mans other best friend, "one of the most intelligent birds on the PLANET", and good enough for the Queen of England! although now that we know all this the next time we get "bombed" we may have to take it personally...