Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"An Outrage against Hawks and Falcons"

Okay, I admit it. I love pigeons. Those plain old city pigeons--what we called for generations Rock Doves, that are now Rock Pigeons. The invasive exotic bird that really doesn't belong in North America to begin with. I love them far more than most birders do. It may be because I grew up with them in Chicago. May be because as someone who came from "trailer trash," I identify with birds considered riffraff by most people. Who knows? But I do love pigeons.

My big brother raised pigeons, and for a while he had a bunch of fancy breeds, including rollers. Rollers and tumblers are famous for their peculiar flight, which puts them in serious jeopardy from falcons and accipiters. Maybe even from Red-tailed Hawks. Back when we were growing up, at the peak of DDT usage and after generations of hawk-shooting, my brother's pigeons never encountered hawks. But even he knew not to fly his rollers where a passing raptor might grab them. It was a no-brainer. People messed with the genetics of these poor birds to make their flight so bizarre, and so it was the people's responsibility to protect the birds from nature by keeping them out of nature. My brother didn't like how crippled the birds were compared to the pigeons with more natural flight, so he never bred them or got very much into rollers.

But nowadays some roller-breeders have taken to racing the poor things, and rather than protecting them from nature by keeping them sheltered, have started massacring nature, by shooting or by trapping and killing hawks. They create this pathetic breed of pigeon that can't even fly properly, release it in the natural world to fly in races, and then go out and kill natural predators. Birder's World's cool blog, "Field of View," has a post about this horrible story today: An Outrage Against Hawks and Falcons. I hope the judge throws the book at them.