Pigeons are gross. They’re also wildly underrated.

Pigeons are gross. They’re also wildly underrated.

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So here’s a controversial opinion: Pigeons
are underrated. Does each one of them create an estimated
25 pounds of shit each year? Yes. Can that shit spread disease? Yes. But the same applies to a couple of animals
that we often share our beds with. And pigeons, though they may seem useless,
have actually played an outsized role in world history and in the history of science. If you read the first chapter of Darwin’s
book On The Origin of Species – it isn’t about the animals he famously observed in
the tropics. Instead, he opened his book by talking about pigeons. Darwin noticed how pigeon fanciers had created
a huge variety of pigeon breeds from a single species — columbia livia, the rock pigeon. And he used this example of artificial selection
to help communicate his own game-changing theory of natural selection. By that time, rock pigeons had been domesticated
by humans for thousands of years, for food and as pets. It was actually once a status symbol to build
giant bird houses for pigeons — they’re called dovecotes and they’re still standing
today in many parts of Europe and Asia. That’s ultimately why there are pigeons
in American cities: Europeans were fond of them, and they brought them here. And until recently, pigeons were seen as useful
companions. For instance, they were deployed in war for
thousands of years, including the World Wars. “Sleek and well-fed pigeons, busy raising
families of more flying messengers for use by troops in the field” They delivered a lot of messages. That’s Phil Edwards – he writes about history
here at Vox. It didn’t need power. It didn’t need electrical
lines. All it needed was the ability to fly and it would carry the message with it, and
reliably it would get home. One pigeon saved 200 stranded American soldiers
by delivering a message during World War 1, despite being badly injured. In the second world war, the UK expanded their
pigeon corps to 250,000 birds and sent parachutes carrying pigeons into occupied Europe- like
a prepaid envelope- to solicit information. 32 pigeons ended up winning a medal for valor,
the Dickin medal. Scientists haven’t quite figured out the
mechanism behind their homing abilities, but some pigeons can be driven hundreds of miles
away and still fly right home. It’s a skill that hasn’t gone unnoticed
by criminal elements. “Brazilian prison authorities have discovered
a new smuggling scheme used in jails. Carrier pigeons are used to deliver drugs and mobile
phones to inmates” And it’s the secret to those ceremonial
white “doves” – they’re pigeons. And they just go home when they’re released. During World War 2 pigeons were also part
of a long-shot project headed by famous behaviorist B.F. Skinner. And the idea was that pigeons could be used
to guide a missile toward its target. Skinner found that he could train pigeons
to peck at a target with high accuracy by rewarding their behavior. And they were able to hit a single street
corner on a map with enough training. But ultimately the army decided not to use it
because there were better advances in guided missiles and probably because it was pigeons. Skinner kept working with pigeons for the
rest of his career though. They helped him show how reinforcement could shape even complex
behaviors. “I will try to pick out some particular
pattern of behavior and make it a more frequent part of the repertoire of the bird.” Building on these ideas, a project headed
by the Coast Guard later on tried to use the pecking behavior to search for people lost
at sea. They lived in a little bubble at the bottom
of a helicopter when they were on these missions. What they did was they pecked when they saw
objects floating in the water. And they did really well. “The contest was on. Who would spot the
target first: The human observers or the pigeons? They had an accuracy rate that was significantly
higher than humans because they never fell asleep, they had better eyesight and they
were simply more interested in the task of trying to find things because they believed
that it would give them a reward. The program never moved beyond testing because
of equipment failures and budget cuts. But also, our relationship with pigeons shifted.
They became widely seen as pests. In fact they’re one of the the birds not
protected by federal law, and there’s an entire industry dedicated to their removal. “The sun shining bright. Everything seems alright when we’re poisoning pigeons in the park.” Maybe because we have drones and email and
GPS, all we want from our animals is for them to be cute. But these little bastards could
guide our f***ing missiles. I mean come on, they deserve a little respect. We’ll murder them amid laughter and merriment, except for the few we take home to experiment.”


  1. I never hate pigeons but I love them!
    How can people hate them? They're
    so cute and innocent. Pigeons should
    be the least hated animals.

    Remember Cher Ami and William of Orange?
    Those hero pigeons saved many lives during World War 1 and 2.

    We love pigeons and we have to respect them…………


  2. Pigeons are smart animals. People only judge the street pigeons but do not see how many types of beautiful pigeons are out there. There are many show pigeons and performing pigeons. I have pigeons in many colors.

  3. What B.F. Skinner started to talk about at 3:12 is a classical experiment in behavioral psychology, where he basically trained pigeons to, say, lift their right wing by dispensing food when they do it. In other words, he taught pigeons to be superstitious.

  4. I used to hate them, but this video changed my mind. They are very much underrated.

  5. “This video will change how you look at pigeons,” you say

    “Will it tho?” I ask my pigeon, who looks at me confusedly from the windowsill.

    (Rumor says hello)

  6. Pardon Me but i Think this birds are important and not gross they clean up for us no? And they just dont know any good Cause there Animals!!!!!!!! So Dont blame This Creatures, And the Poop They make is actually our Fault! Cause Why feed them so dont blame Them!!!


    Edit 2: like if you Agree with meh

  7. My pigeon theory

    They killed all the pigeon and replace then with high tech cameras that look like pigeons

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