Wherever there are humans, you can be certain that pigeons are not far away. Throughout history, they have been known to have man’s back. Even when man seems to have turned his back on them, they continue to stick by his side.
For centuries, pigeons have subtly exhibited their shrewdness without a recompensing pat on the back for their efforts. Writer Toby Fehily briefly elaborates in the Smith Journal (Volume Eleven) on how these so-called “rats of the sky” have been “employed” by humans for a wage of breadcrumbs. From playing pre-historic postman back in ancient Egypt to competing in pigeon races as entertainment for kings and queens in ancient years, the unfortunate bird sometimes even ended up being served as dinner.
We humans usually refer to a person who is easily swayed by anything – be it trends, fashion, social media or mass media – a pigeon. Throughout the centuries of interaction with humans, pigeons have developed some human traits. This is testament to the little known fact of how witty these creatures actually are.
Take pigeons in the Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD) for example, I took some time out to study, follow and duck a few pigeons. That also involved trying to figure out how they interact around the CBD. Fascinatingly I discovered that pigeons are the embodiment of human beings.
Pigeons are found in abundance on the streets of Joburg, hustling for bread for that night, running (or flying) the streets, engaging with other pigeons and thrifting for the best meal. There are the North pigeons brushing shoulders with pigeons from the South. You can also find West-side pigeons looking gangster, bouncing about the pavement with no fear, wanting to appear dangerous.
Pigeons typically roll in flocks, groups, gangs, cliques, squads, crews, or whatever you desire to call them. You seldom see them isolated, however, if it happens, it’s usually the crippled pigeon that is isolated (perhaps pigeons, like people, sometimes look down on the disabled. I don’t know).
There’s always a spot, a corner, a rooftop, a pavement, or a balcony where the birds meet to hangout. Pigeons are barely found in dry (boring) places; the birds commonly meet up at vivacious settings (or hot spots) to share dropped snacks around a watering hole.
But the birds are known to be hard workers and are always pushing to get through the day: hustlers. They are continuously on an expedition of the city, scouting the next venture in which to participate in (or consume at). Yet, amidst all that exploration, pigeons retain their uncanny ability to quickly find their way back home. To retreat when the city becomes too much.
At dusk you see them scatter, dispersing to their little havens. Fleeing the danger that comes with night time in the city. It is also a retreat from a day of hard labour.
Pigeons strongly mimic human beings after centuries of existing in such close proximity. So, when you spot one flying above or making way for you on the pavement, just remember, they’re still waiting for that pat on the back. The least you can do is flick a little crumb their way.
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