Most people don’t realize…
Most people don’t realize that all the pigeons in New York City are feral (gone wild) descendants of domesticated pigeons kept on the rooftops as pets, for sport, for show and for food earlier in the century. (Pigeons of the type we know are not native to the U.S.)
When you see a flock of wild pigeons spontaneously leap into the air and fly around in circles in a tight group, you are seeing the behavior their ancestors were bred to perform by rooftop pigeon fanciers. The breeders selectively intensified the natural behavior of the birds to fly out from the nest, forage for food, and return to the nest, resulting in specialized strains that can find their home lofts from long distances, covering 500 miles a day (homers), birds that can fly above their loft in circles continuously for 15-20 hours (tipplers, or as they are called only in New York, “tiplets”), aerial acrobats that spin backwards in a series of multiple somersaults (rollers), as well as the garden variety of New York flyers that circle above their rooftops in tight groups, trying to get the neighbor’s birds to defect to them.
As a resident of suburban Bayside, Queens in the ’60’s and ’70’s, I kept pigeons, which I was first exposed to by “urban flight” neighbors, who came out of the inner boroughs, bringing their tradition of rooftop pigeon keeping with them.
Pigeons, of course, are much maligned, especially for their dirtiness. All I can say is that domesticated pigeons, when fed dry grain and clean water, are clean animals. If you put a pan of water out on a sunny day they will even take a bath. It’s like the difference between an observer’s perception of a homeless person and one who has shelter, clean clothes, and eats good food.
My Web site about Bayside in those times is: