The author and photographer who opened a glorious window into the world of exotic birds with his hugely successful Extraordinary Chickens and its well-received follow-up, Extraordinary Pheasants, continues his startling photographic exploration with another singular and charming book. The striking images in Stephen Green-Armytage’s first book showed that “the world of chickens is a world of wonders” (New York Times Book Review). Now this arresting new volume-a look at pigeon breeds from around the world-captures as we have never seen before the eccentric and often surprising features of these amazing creatures.
Pigeons of all sizes, shapes, and colors parade through these pages-from the Volga Tumbler Pigeons to the Philippine Bleeding Heart Doves (doves are actually pigeons, just small ones), from the flamboyant Jacobins who wear their lavish feathers like a boa, and the Pouters who puff out their chests to absurd proportions, to the Trumpeters who sport floppy crowns reminiscent of moptop 1960s pop groups. The astonishing color photographs, enhanced by a brief, informative text, make this a perfect gift for birders, breeders, animal lovers, and photography buffs alike.
Pigeons have been worshipped as fertility goddesses and revered as symbols of peace. Domesticated since the dawn of man, they’ve been used as crucial communicators in war by every major historical superpower from ancient Egypt to the United States and are credited with saving thousands of lives. Charles Darwin relied heavily on pigeons to help formulate and support his theory of evolution. Yet today they are reviled as “rats with wings.” Author Andrew D. Blechman traveled across the United States and Europe to meet with pigeon fanciers and pigeon haters in a quest to find out how we came to misunderstand one of mankind’s most helpful and steadfast companions. Pigeons captures a Brooklyn man’s quest to win the Main Event (the pigeon world’s equivalent of the Kentucky Derby), as well as a convention dedicated to breeding the perfect bird. Blechman participates in a live pigeon shoot where entrants pay $150; he tracks down Mike Tyson, the nation’s most famous pigeon lover; he spends time with Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Pigeon Handler; and he sheds light on a radical “pro-pigeon underground’ in New York City. In Pigeons, Blechman tells for the first time the remarkable story behind this seemingly unremarkable bird.
While a far cry from the exotic subway riding pigeons of Far Rockaway (I need to pay them a visit some time) described in Randy Kennedy’s “Subwayland“, there are some pigeons that live underground in subway stations. I missed my train to take this picture:
The black splotches of gum that cover so many sidewalks and subway platforms in NYC always make me think of a passage from “Roadside Picnic” (English translation is available on the official site for download) by Russian sci-fi writers brothers Strugatsky”:
“And, as was to be expected, there was nothing else to be seen on the road, except for the black twisted stalactites that looked like fat candles hanging from the jagged edges of the slope, and a multitude of black splotches in the dust, as though someone had spilled bitumen. That was all that was left of them, it was even impossible to tell how many there had been. Maybe each splotch represented a person, or one of Buzzard’s wishes.”
The 47-50th Street station has stalactites as well. It’s a very special station indeed. :)
You know, I feel that “pigeon” is just a pejorative for “dove“. Many of the pigeons that I see are probably descendants of the ones that Tesla fed.
JWZ posted a link about a trained hawk that attacked a Chihuahua in Bryant Park. The hawks were used for scaring away pigeons. The hawks were well fed, but still tried to kill a pigeon or two. And of course they could not pass up Mexican food. Yeah, it’s tough to be a lap dog in NYC. If the swans in Central Park won’t get you, the hawks in Bryant Park will.
Of course ratbirds are annoying and a health hazard, but in this case we are talking about the exact spot where Tesla fed pigeons. These are the descendants of Tesla’s pigeons! I guess he’d be pretty pissed about the hawks.
So now it looks like the hawk program will get canned because of the stupid lap dog. That’s too bad – trained hawks are pretty cool. Too bad I didn’t know about the hawks before, or I would have taken pictures. In fact I think I saw the hawk dude in the park, but I thought that he was in for a renaissance fair or something.
Hawks are not the only critters that keep New Yorkers safe from bombs. On my way to work I pass up a guy with a bomb sniffing dog standing in the area where trucks are unloading in the building where I work. In fact, there are a few of these dogs around. I wonder if they found a single bomb.