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Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird

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Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird Cover

ISBN13: 9780802143280
ISBN10: 0802143288
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

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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.

Synopsis:

Many people consider the ubiquitous pigeon to be a pest. But as Blechman demonstrates in his enjoyable and informative book, this much-maligned bird has served humans well for thousands of years.

Synopsis:

Pigeons are athletes of the highest caliber. While racehorses receive all the glory with their 35 mph sprints around a one-mile racetrack, homing pigeons--a mere pound of flesh and feathers--routinely fly more than five hundred miles in a single day at speeds exceeding 60 mph, finding their way home from a place they've never been before, without stopping. Pigeon racing is an internationally popular sport that can count the Queen of England among its enthusiasts. Winning birds can bring home millions of dollars in prize money and fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. Although we all share a universal bond with this ubiquitous bird, there are some of us whose lives revolve around the bird in more profound--and often humorous--ways. I met trainers who ran around their backyards with whistles in tow, barking orders at their racing pigeons as if conditioning a team of professional soccer players; militant members of a New York City pigeon-underground, who prowl city streets in search of pigeon poachers; and backyard geneticists who toyed with the cellular composition of pigeons in their quest to create a bird more akin to a Dresden figurine than a child of nature.

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Shoshana, November 25, 2007 (view all comments by Shoshana)
At the close of the book, Blechman acknowledges that when he began, he was more interested in writing about people obsessed with pigeons than the pigeons themselves. This was an interesting confirmation of my impression that pigeons were a secondary focus masquerading as primary. Yes, the text itself balances the birds with the breeders, racers, and others, but despite Blechman's ultimate advocacy for pigeons, the impression that he finds them unpleasant keeps breaking though. This happens in a variety of ways. First, Blechman is obsessed by pigeon droppings. There are few descriptions of pigeons or their habitats that do not feature a repetitive marveling at their droppings, which Blechman and others quoted persist in referring to with cruder language. Second, despite some efforts to review the history of the pigeon and provide interesting facts, Blechman's heart clearly isn't in it. He is much more interested in the seemingly all-male world of pigeon afficionados of various kinds, describing members of secretive pigeon-shooting clubs with more apparent affection than he has for the birds. Third, while Blechman's words decry violence against pigeons, he devotes a fair number of pages to people who shoot them, poison them, steal them, and butcher them. He does a poor job of commenting on what could have been the crux of the book--the public's ambivalence about pigeons--and instead merely seems to enact that ambivalence, despite his stated intentions. Though the book contains a fair amount of information, it winds up feeling empty; this is not helped by an empty chapter about failing to talk to Mike Tyson (who owns pigeons).

For a narrative about another urban pest, including eradication efforts but conveying deeper regard and respect, read Sullivan's Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780802143280
Author:
Blechman, Andrew D.
Publisher:
Grove Press
Subject:
Birds & Birdwatching
Subject:
Birds & Birdwatching - General
Subject:
Pigeons
Subject:
Birdwatching Guides
Subject:
Nature Studies-Birds
Copyright:
Edition Description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Publication Date:
October 2007
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 10.5 oz

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Birds » Birdwatching
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Birds » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Birds » Ornithology
Science and Mathematics » Ornithology » General Ornithology and Birding
Science and Mathematics » Ornithology » Species and Groups by Type
Travel » General

Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird Used Trade Paper
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Product details 256 pages Grove Press - English 9780802143280 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Many people consider the ubiquitous pigeon to be a pest. But as Blechman demonstrates in his enjoyable and informative book, this much-maligned bird has served humans well for thousands of years.
"Synopsis" by , Pigeons are athletes of the highest caliber. While racehorses receive all the glory with their 35 mph sprints around a one-mile racetrack, homing pigeons--a mere pound of flesh and feathers--routinely fly more than five hundred miles in a single day at speeds exceeding 60 mph, finding their way home from a place they've never been before, without stopping. Pigeon racing is an internationally popular sport that can count the Queen of England among its enthusiasts. Winning birds can bring home millions of dollars in prize money and fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. Although we all share a universal bond with this ubiquitous bird, there are some of us whose lives revolve around the bird in more profound--and often humorous--ways. I met trainers who ran around their backyards with whistles in tow, barking orders at their racing pigeons as if conditioning a team of professional soccer players; militant members of a New York City pigeon-underground, who prowl city streets in search of pigeon poachers; and backyard geneticists who toyed with the cellular composition of pigeons in their quest to create a bird more akin to a Dresden figurine than a child of nature.
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