Stories tagged pigeons

Aug
21
2008

Problem pigeon: John McCain, I've got that bald spot on the top of your head targeted for one of my droppings.
Problem pigeon: John McCain, I've got that bald spot on the top of your head targeted for one of my droppings.Courtesy Josh215
Aboout a year ago, the Buzz brought you news that St. Paul city officials were taking steps to reduce (with the ultimate goal of eliminating) the pigeon population in downtown. The thought was, with the Republican National Convention coming, the city didn't want out-of-towners having to watch their step on the sidewalks for messy pigeon droppings.

As a regular pedestrian through downtown, I can attest that the year's worth of efforts haven't made much of a difference. There are plenty of pigeons, and their droppings, still around downtown. Unless we host a massive falcon-hawk-eagle convention in the next week, the GOP is going to have to be on the lookout for pigeon GOOP.

None the less, St. Paul officials are cranking up their efforts to reduce the pigeon population. While earlier efforts focused on building delux nesting sites for the birds, and the confiscation of their eggs after they were laid, they've turned to pigeon birth control methods. Read all about it here in this Star-Tribune interview with the city's animal control officer. That all begs the question, were do you get pigeon condoms?

A round-up of current approaches, including ultrasound, strode lights and giant, evil-looking balloons.

Jun
16
2008

Chill out kid: You're in the presence of great minds.
Chill out kid: You're in the presence of great minds.Courtesy Mario Sepulveda
Get your lists out, Buzzketeers.

No, get ‘em out!

Or, you know, just sit there with your lists put away. Good job. You’re good at that.

Those of you who care about science, and have your lists out, thank you. And you may now add pigeons>babies to your “What is smarter that what” list. About time, huh?

I understand that intelligence is a tricky thing to measure, and we should acknowledge that there are several things that babies can do better than pigeons. Crying, throwing up, and pooping, for instance, babies are clearly more skilled at. But when it comes to self-cognitive abilities—something long considered exclusive to primates and large-brained animals like dolphins and elephants—pigeons take the cake. They take it away from babies.

Researchers in Japan have shown that pigeons can discriminate video images of themselves with as much as a 5-7 second delay, while 3 year old children have difficulty recognizing themselves after only a 2 second delay. Pretty embarrassing for the earth’s toddlers, if you ask me—3 years is pretty old to have trouble recognizing Number One.

I don’t totally understand the methodology behind telling whether a pigeon (or a baby, for that matter) can recognize itself, but the article gave some other interesting/hilarious examples of self-cognition tests.

Similar test have been performed on chimps by drawing on their faces when they were sleeping (drugged). Upon waking, the chimps were given mirrors to see how they felt about their new decorations. This experiment is frequently carried out on drunk humans as well (I tried to find a good picture of this, but they all seem to include a drawing of…a particular body part).

Researchers at Harvard University have shown that pigeons can discriminate pictures of people, and a laboratory in Japan claims that they can even distinguish between the works of certain painters.

Pigeons were also shown to be able to tell the difference between birds given stimulant drugs and sober pigeons. No word as to whether they’ll be trying that particular experiment on babies.

Really, I think that says it all.

Someone in Seattle is using pigeons as outdoor darts boards. National Geographic has disburbing photos of pigeons who are still flying about with darts lodged in their skulls. Authorities are investigating and criminal charges could be brought. Please, don't try this around your home.

Aug
08
2007

Bridge breaker?: An unusual factor that may have contributed to the I-35W bridge collapse is a build-up of pigeon poop in the box beams of the bridge. To keep pigeons from getting into the box beams, plastic covers were put over inspection holes on the bridge.
Bridge breaker?: An unusual factor that may have contributed to the I-35W bridge collapse is a build-up of pigeon poop in the box beams of the bridge. To keep pigeons from getting into the box beams, plastic covers were put over inspection holes on the bridge.
As the blame game starts to heat up in the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse, members of the animal kingdom are getting fingers pointed at them.

Tuesday’s Star Tribune carried a story about how problems with pigeons and spiders complicated bridge inspections over the past 13 years. How could those creatures play a part in a bridge going down? Read on.

Pigeon poop is a nuisance in all urban areas and was chronicled in this post to Science Buzz a few months ago. And evidently at the I-35W bridge, pigeon droppings were a big problem. Large numbers of pigeons were nesting in the box beam sections of the bridge structure from as far back as 1994. The box beam is vertical support beam between the bridge deck and the supporting floor beam below the bridge. The box beams had holes in them for inspectors to look inside, but that was also the access that pigeons were using to get inside and build nests.

With large numbers of pigeons in the bridge came heavy amounts of pigeon droppings. And the waste matter in those droppings can be very corrosive to metal. The solution taken in 1999 to solve that problem was to put plastic covers over the box beam holes. And those areas were some of the most critical areas for fatigue cracking that was occurring in the bridge. Some are now wondering if those plastic covers limited inspectors’ views of these critical areas of the bridge.

As for the spiders, inspectors said that the huge number of spider webs in and under the bridge could often be confused for bridge structure cracks.

The story also mentioned one other species that made inspections more challenging to engineers: humans. While the inspection work would be targeted to non-rush hour times from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., inspectors said they still were often the targets of road rage from passing motorist who felt inconvenienced by having one lane of the bridge shut down during the inspection. Inspectors said they even had object thrown by passing drivers as they were trying to do an inspection.

Apr
05
2007


A Rock Pigeon: Rock pigeons are the pigeons that are common in large numbers in most major cities. Photo courtesy Josh215 via Wikipedia.
The City of St. Paul is aiming to look its best when the Republican National Convention comes to town in late summer 2008. Part of the plan to spiff up the capitol city is a crack down on pigeon poop – a daunting adversary for many major cities.

The City plans to build ideal nesting grounds for pigeons on rooftops in downtown and then take the eggs in order to attempt to control the population. The hope is that fewer pigeons will mean less pigeon poop. City officials are not sure the pigeon “condo” scheme will be effective, but they are willing to give it a try after numerous other plans have fallen short of the goal.

Pigeons find food easily in the city: The readily available food in an urban environment allows pigeons to breed year-round.  Photo courtesy Photo courtesy sarmoung via Flickr.
Pigeons find food easily in the city: The readily available food in an urban environment allows pigeons to breed year-round. Photo courtesy Photo courtesy sarmoung via Flickr.
Pigeons love city life

Rock Pigeons, often also commonly called doves, are the most common type of pigeon found in urban areas. They are found in cities all over the world as they find high buildings an ideal substitute for their preferred nesting habitat in the wild – sea cliffs.

Rapid reproduction

Many techniques have been used to attempt to control pigeon populations – but it is a major undertaking. Pigeons breed when they have access to a steady food supply. Given the readily available food in an urban environment – from garbage to residents actively feeding pigeons – the food supplies in cities allow pigeons to reproduce year-round, laying eggs six to nine times a year.

Jul
21
2006

We've had mourning doves nesting in our backyard evergreen trees all summer.

Mourning dove: You can see the messy nest and a chick's head peeking out. (Photo by Ken Kornack)
Mourning dove: You can see the messy nest and a chick's head peeking out. (Photo by Ken Kornack)

They're good parents--far more attentive than the human ones who share the space! They lay two eggs at a time, and almost never leave them alone. The male usually incubates from midmorning until late afternoon, and the female tends them the rest of the time. (Warning: gross fact ahead!) Mourning doves of both sexes feed their hatchlings something called "pigeon milk"--a substance that oozes from the lining of the parent's crop and contains more protein and fat than either human or cow's milk. Hatchlings eat nothing but pigeon milk until they're three days old; after that, they're gradually weaned onto a diet of seeds. The parents continue to feed the hatchlings until they're totally feathered out.

The crazy part is that mourning doves can produce five or six sets of chicks each year. (This may be one reason why mourning doves are among the ten most abundant birds in the US...) If things at the first nest are going well, the parents will build a second one nearby. One adult feeds the older chicks, while the other sits on the new eggs. It's a baby bird factory!

Right now, we have a couple of newly-fledged doves running around on the ground. I think the parents are still feeding them occasionally. And there's a new set of hungry hatchlings to feed, too. Makes me feel lazy for complaining about keeping up with my two little ones!

Listen to a mourning dove

More on mourning doves

Even more on mourning doves

Mourning doves are related to pigeons. Here's a great article on why you never see baby pigeons.

Feb
03
2006

You heard me.

Pigeons!: pigeons pigeons pigeons  Merwedekanaal, Utrecht.  Photo Courtesy Eti.
Pigeons!: pigeons pigeons pigeons Merwedekanaal, Utrecht. Photo Courtesy Eti.

Later this year researchers and students at the University of California, Irvine, will start a pigeon blog. 20 pigeon bloggers will be released over San Jose equipped with a prototype kit that contains a small GPS receiver, pollution sensors, cameras, and a home made cell phone. The sensors will measure the level of pollution in the air and then will send the information to the cell phone that will then text the information to a blog in real time. All this fits in a small package that the pigeons carry on their back.

The pigeons are set to be released at the Inter-Society for Electronic Arts' annual symposium in San Jose on August 5, 2006. The data they text to the blog will be displayed in the form of an interactive map.

So contribute your comments and ideas to Science Buzz now before blogging goes to the birds!