cover image Life of the Pigeon

Life of the Pigeon

Alexander F. Skutch. Comstock Publishing, $57.5 (130pp) ISBN 978-0-8014-2528-8

Pigeons have a long history, notes Skutch, author of A Naturalist on a Tropical Farm . They appear in artifacts from the Bronze Age, the Romans used them as messengers and the dove was the symbol of the Holy Ghost in early Christian art. He introduces the family Columbidae --pigeons and doves (255 species), found over most of the earth, with the greater number of species in the tropics and subtropics. They range in size from a sparrow to a hen turkey and, unlike most birds, can drink without raising their heads. Skutch describes the habits of these remarkably adaptive and intelligent birds: what they eat, their courtship rituals, how they raise their young. He devotes one chapter to migration, another to homing and racing pigeons and their training; he examines the domesticated pigeons raised by Charles Darwin. This is an engaging study, especially enlightening for readers who have regarded pigeons only as a nuisance. (July)