Rosemary Mosco || June/July 2021
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Urban nature is always astonishing to me; so many of the plants and creatures in our cities are here for sociological reasons we’ve long forgotten. Pigeons are a great example — they’re native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but people domesticated them 5000+ years ago and intentionally imported them to North America. People label pigeons pests, but they’ve forgotten why pigeons are here. Some of the birds, as Cornell Norwood’s story shows, were imported because of surprising traits like rolling. Cornell’s story emphasizes the beauty and complexity of pigeons, and exposes their close ties to people and to the class-based and racial factors that define our lives.
I recently finished writing and illustrating a book about feral pigeons. Those city birds come from escaped purebred ones, so I loved getting a peek into pigeon-raising culture. I thought I’d contribute a little more information about the biology and history of the birds. I’m hoping that bird-loving people will come for the birds and stay for Cornell’s story.
Rosemary Mosco is a nature cartoonist (birdandmoon.com) and author of science books for kids and adults. Her field guide to feral pigeons, A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching, comes out on September 28.