Posted by: cctracker | February 2, 2012

Pigeons, People and Pulchritude?

Just a quick question I was asking myself driving to work today: “Why are pigeons so pretty?”

I know, I know, they’re the “flying rats” of cities all over the planet. But look at their markings: from white to slate purple and in every mottled and striped variety in between, pigeons are showy. When I lived in the Bronx in the early 80’s and saw a shoal of them rise up all at once in all their varied glory and wheel together into the air against an endless landscape of brick and asphalt, my heart skipped a beat. A little natural glory came in pretty handy back in those days, bub.

Image at Profimedia

But why all that variety?

Almost every species shows relatively little distinction between individuals. Of course those subtle differences are absolutely loaded with evolutionary significance in the reproductive crucible, but from flies to foxes there’s not much drama in the differences between one individual and another of the same gender.

Dogs are a very notable exception, probably the most spectacular exception to the rule on the planet. Lots of new films and books are being written about why and it is a very cool story. Cats are right on their heels. And both are in intimate contact with us. Interesting.

Image at Voice Tribune

And, of course, we members of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens are pretty remarkable exceptions as well: our sizes, skin tones, eye colors, and hair  types give us some dramatic room to maneuver. Lots of ways to be be attractive as a human being.

Does anything connect these stories? Pigeons are really “Rock Doves.” They used to nest in the cliffs and obviously made the jump quite readily to our skyscapers and City Halls. Is that why they went viral as a species? They eat what we eat. I guess they eat about anything. Is all that variety  in markings a result of being a global species? Is that why we exhibit all of our own wonderful variety?  Does every species we decide to live with start showing off?

Just a few questions I was asking on a commute. Meanwhile, I’ll take any spiritual thrill or consolation I can get from any species, anywhere.

Image from Florida Atlantic U. at

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