NOB HILL--I came under attack last Friday. I was standing in my patio when a bird sneaked up behind me and tried to land on my head! The large bird, which turned out to be a pigeon, must have mistaken my white hair for some kind of nesting material…like cushion stuffing. Thankfully, he realized his mistake and left me alone. But the pigeon didn't fly away after that incident; he stuck around and seemed to enjoy hanging out.
My wife MaryAnn and I noticed the pigeon was banded. On one leg the bird sported a simple but elegant pink band. The other leg had a white band that read, "Los Lobos 347." A little Google work led us to the Los Lobos Racing Pigeon Club. Well, we found a phone number for a member who said he would email the membership and try to track down the owner. However we never heard back from them.
At any rate, the pigeon stayed for the weekend. He roosted at night in the rafters of our patio cover. He finally left Sunday afternoon. Outside of the pigeon droppings, I was sorry to see him go.
MaryAnn and I are fascinated by birds. We had a big thrill a couple of weeks ago while we were camping in southern Arizona. At Patagonia Lake we spotted one of the hardest birds to find in the United States: the Elegant Trogon. They range from Costa Rica north to the canyons of the southeastern corner of Arizona. What a beautiful bird!
Nevertheless, this racing homing pigeon that dropped in for the weekend was just as interesting. Here are some pigeon and dove facts gleaned from online sources:
• Racing pigeons were first developed by the Belgians and the British during the 1800's.
• During World War I the British used about 9,500 birds for sending messages.
• Five years ago a South African paid about $130,000 for a racing pigeon at auction.
• Racing homers can fly at 60 mph in sustained high-altitude flight. The fastest recorded is apparently around 110 mph!
• There are 310 species of pigeons and doves.
• Cher Ami, a WWI homing pigeon, was awarded the Croix de Guerre with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster for his work delivering the message that saved the Lost Battalion of the 77th Infantry Division in the Battle of the Argonne in October of 1918. After his death, Cher Ami was mounted and is on permanent display at the National Museum of American History in the Smithsonian Institution.
• The dove became a common Christian symbol of the Holy Spirit.
• Flocks of pigeons are called "batches."