In the tradition of Robert Sullivan’s best-selling Rats comes a whimsical and intimate look into the fascinating world of pigeons and the people they collect. Pigeons have been worshipped as fertility goddesses and used as crucial communicators in war by every major historical superpower from ancient Egypt to the United States, saving thousands of lives. Yet, without just cause, they are reviled today as rats of the sky.” How did we come to misunderstand one of mankind’s most helpful and steadfast companions? Author Andrew D. Blechman traveled across the United States and Europe to meet with pigeon fanciers and pigeon haters in a quest to chronicle the pigeon’s transformation from beloved friend to feathered outlaw. Pigeons captures a Brooklyn man’s quest to win the Main Event (the pigeon world’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby), as well as a pigeon shoot where entrants pay $150 to shoot live pigeons. Blechman tracks down Mike Tyson, the nation’s most famous pigeon lover, and he sheds light on a radical pro-pigeon underground” in New York City. In Pigeons , Blechman tells for the first time the remarkable story behind this seemingly unremarkable bird.
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Many people consider the ubiquitous rock dove, better known as the pigeon, a "rat with wings." But as Blechman demonstrates in his enjoyable and informative book, this much maligned bird has served humans well for thousands of years, carrying messages informing the ancient Egyptians about flood levels along the Nile, bearing news of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and saving thousands of soldiers' lives during the two world wars. Today pigeons are found everywhere, from the queen of England's luxurious racing pigeon lofts to the garbage-strewn streets of every large city. Pigeons—gregarious, easily domesticated and capable of flying for hours at speeds of more than 100 mph—are interesting in their own right, but Blechman writes not so much about the birds themselves as about the people who either love or hate them. These include members of a Newe York City homing pigeon club who dedicate themselves to raising and racing pigeons; Queen Elizabeth's royal pigeon handler; breeders who spend years perfecting champion birds for show; gun enthusiasts who participate in brutal live pigeon shoots. Many of these people are eccentric, and while Blechman's book won't convert pigeon haters to pigeon lovers, it does make for entertaining reading. (Nov.)
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The humble rock dove, Columba livia, is so ubiquitous around human habitations that most people cease to notice them. Domesticated almost as long as the dog, pigeons have been a part of human lives for millennia and yet today have become mere hangers-on in modern society. When they are noticed, they are thought of as feathered rats, and yet there are enthusiastic clubs that race homing pigeons, breed fancy pigeons, and keep coops of birds on their roofs. From the Main Event (the Kentucky Derby of pigeon racing) to the Grand Nationals (think Westminster Kennel Club with pigeons), the author delves into the world of pigeon fanciers and learns from some of its gurus. Along the way, Blechman examines genetics and evolution (Darwin based much of his theory on his own pigeon breeding), history (carrier pigeons saved thousands of lives during the World Wars), natural history (how pigeons "home"), mythology (pigeons as symbols of peace and fertility), and pigeon control (both humane and lethal). Readers will never look at their cities' pigeons the same way again. Nancy Bent
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