After recent times books such as Bird Therapy (2019), now there’s this little gem to keep in mind. And it’s about the humble pigeon!
Generally considered as pests these days (“rats with wings”), they’re actually pretty adorable little beasts packing plenty of personality.
And they’re of great use to human beings. As science writer and cartoonist Rosemary Mosco has gone to charming lengths to prove.
A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching: Getting to Know the World’s Most Misunderstood Bird
And the public here (as with many other cities) tends to view them as a nuisance. An annoyance. Something to be curbed!
Whereas if you bother to watch the birds in action they’re very entertaining and very lovable. Humble, yet also puffed up on self-importance and feathery grandeur.
A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching is a celebration of the feathery little things. An appreciation of their historical worth and why we should all still be in love with them in modern times.
But, sadly, that really isn’t the case. Most people hate pigeons and think they’re a pest across worldwide cities.
Mosco begins her work by documenting how, in antiquity and up until recent times (especially during WWII with carrier pigeons) humanity loved the little beasts.
Yet, those days are now gone:
“Once the darlings of the rich, pigeons became signs of urban poverty and decay. Their reputation took a huge hit in 1963 when two New Yorkers died from a fungal infection called cryptococcal meningitis. A city official stoked panic when he declared that pigeons were at fault (they weren’t), and that the deadly fungus was drifting through the air and into the lungs of all New Yorkers (it wasn’t). Then, in a 1966 article in The New York Times, Parks Commissioner Thomas P. F. Hoving listed pigeons as one of the city’s so-called social troubles, along with homelessness, alcoholism, and littering. The pigeon, he said, was ‘a rat with wings.’ That phrase went global in 1980 when Woody Allen famously used it in his movie Stardust Memories. Pigeons had morphed into rats.”
Indeed! And the reputation has stuck since around 1980. That was the year, here in Manchester, a notorious incident occurred.
Pigeons feature in Madchester biographical comedy-drama 24 Hour Party People (2002) getting slaughtered for laughs by the Happy Mondays founders.
Lovely, eh? You get right there the genuine love the people of Manchester have for these birds.
However, there’s a bit more love for the pigeon in Blackadder Goes Forth (1989). Blackadder does almost get court martialled for his antics.
There’s actually a Pigeon Movie Database (and we’re going to do a full feature on that soon) you can refer to for full details on this stuff.
But, the book! A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching is a glorious tome.
Mosco’s sense of humour throughout makes it a laid back read, but one also packed out with details on the little winged beasts. Chapters take in:
- Why watch pigeons?
- Pigeon breeds.
- Personality breakdowns.
This includes the likes of New Zealand’s kererū pigeon, which sometimes gets drunk off the fruit fermenting in its crop.
Or we have the Birmingham roller, which has a dramatic mid-air roll as it pitches downwards. All rather spectacular!
The various scientific facts are broken down neatly for readers, meaning no matter your age (unless you’re, like, one or something) you can enjoy the book.
Especially thanks to Mosco’s charming cartoons that complement the words. Behold!
So, yes, this thing just launched in October of 2021. And we’ve got to say it’s a light-hearted and glorious read.
And one that brings with it an important reason to love pigeons, rather than treat them like crap or view them with indifference.
Do so! The next time you’re out and about, observe the pigeons as they busy about their feathery days. For they’re great fun to watch.
About Rosemary Mosco
Mosco is a science writer who’s worked with Atlas Obscura (amongst other publications). She often writes books for kids, although Pigeon Watching is a tome for all ages.
She merges her knowledge of science stuffs with an impish sense of humour, making science accessible for young and old.
She makes that side look easy, but she’s said it’s the trickier side of her job. As she told Treehugger in 2018:
“I’m bursting with facts about nature. Every plant and animal is amazing if you look at it the right way. Pigeons? They mate for life and feed their babies milk from their throats. Mice? They sing ultrasonic tunes to woo their partners. The cool facts are endless. I find it much more difficult to craft a fact into a joke that will catch a reader’s attention.”
In other interviews she says she grew up reading the likes of Calvin and Hobbes, the influence of which you can see in her work.
She’s on Twitter and other social stuffs if you want to give her a follow!
— Rosemary Mosco (Bird And Moon Comics) (@RosemaryMosco) October 26, 2021
When not doing all of that stuff, she speaks at birding festivals and is also a writer for kids’ TV show Elinor Wonders Why.
Yes, well… maybe she WOULDN’T wonder why if she just bought more of Mosco’s books. There’s a lesson for all of you!