3 Things You Never Knew About Pigeons

When most people think of pigeons, they think of dirt, disease and the most common bird ever. But they are actually amazing and here’s 3 facts that are bound to change anyone’s mind about pigeons.

1. They produce milk.

While pigeons don’t lactate like mammals, they still produce a milky substance that is very similar. Just like mammals, shortly after the eggs hatch, hormones change the function of the crops in both male and female pigeons and they produce a milky substance rich in protein and fat.  The only other birds in the world who also practice this are flamingos and emperor penguins. So it’s basically lactation except it comes out of the neck.

2. Pigeons bob their heads to see better

It is easier to observe a moving object when your head and eyes are still. Hence why if you need to see something really far away, you’ll usually stop and look at it rather than run around hoping to catch a glimpse. Pigeons appear to bob their heads for the sake of it but in reality that is not whats happening at all.

Instead of bobbing the head, the pigeon is actually holding its head still for as long as possible by holding it in place and moving the body. This is to absorb as much of the surroundings as possible as often as possible, and was disturbingly discovered by Barry Frost when he decided to put pigeons on treadmills. There was no prey and no predators around and so the pigeons didn’t bob their heads once.

3. Pigeons are Decorated war heroes with excellent hearing.

In world war one, pigeons were used to relay hundreds of thousands of messages, being on of the major sources of confidential communication between allies. But even before this they were employed by Persian kings, Julius Ceaser and many others for thousands of years.

There was a particularly famous pigeon called Cher Ami, who saved a battalion of 600 trapped french soldiers, flying home with a bullet in it’s breast, a missing eye and a leg dangling by a thread. Miraculously, Cher Ami lived through that haunting journey and won an award for his service.

It is thought pigeons are such good navigators due to excellent hearing and Jonathan Hagstrom noticed this when he witnessed supersonic jets disrupting navigation. He theorised that because pigeons can hear at frequencies down to 0.1 hertz. Bear in mind humans can’t hear anything lower than 12 hertz,  and you’ll understand how they manage to create an acoustic map of their surroundings.

 

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