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MLA Full: "Pigeons: Underrated And Smarter Than You Think." YouTube, uploaded by Animal Wonders Montana, 20 February 2020,
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APA Full: Animal Wonders Montana. (2020, February 20). Pigeons: Underrated And Smarter Than You Think [Video]. YouTube.
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 (00:00) to (02:00)

Hi.  I'm Jessi, this is Churro, and we love pigeons.  As you can see, Churro has feathers on her feet and that's because she has some genetics from duchess pigeons which have a full fan of feathers all along their legs and feet.  I think it's such a shame that pigeons have a bad reputation because they really are quite amazing animals.  I'd like to share my experience and love for pigeons in the hopes that if you don't already think pigeons are awesome, I might be able to change your mind.


Churro is about two months old and I raised her from about two weeks old because her parents were struggling to keep her and her sibling warm enough during an unexpected cold snap.  Unfortunately, her sibling didn't make it, which is why I pulled her from the nest and welcomed her into our home.  She lives with us, like a pet dog, and my family is having a really fun time with her.  

So Churro has been joining me at public presentations and she's going to be our pigeon ambassador for today's video.  Now, there are lists all over the internet listing off fun facts about pigeons, like pigeons are self-aware.  Actually, pigeons have been part of quite a few studies on intelligence and they have more surprises up their sleeve than just passing the mirror test.  The mirror test is when you place a mark on an animal to see if they understand that the mark is on them as opposed to another animal by looking in a mirror.  

Another fun fact about pigeons is that they are expert navigators.  They can actually find their way home from over 500 miles away, most likely using one or a combination of landmarks, the Sun, the Earth's magnetic field, and ultra-low sound waves.  I like the fun fact that pigeons are monogamous, mating for life, and both parents play equal roles in raising their young and by producing milk in their crop to feed their babies, and a really fun fact is that pigeons are known for their pattern recognition abilities.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

Pigeons have been taught the alphabet, to detect cancer, an even to distinguish between Monet and Picasso artwork.  These fun fact lists are great and I love that they're out there for everyone to see.  If you want to learn more, I've put some links in the description.  All these awesome things pigeons can do make them really special, but the reason that I love pigeons so much doesn't have as much to do with incredible feats or being a one-of-a-kind species compared to others.  Instead, it has more to do with my association with them as a really good friend.

Thanks, Churro.  Thanks for fixing my hair.  Yeah.  You're very friendly.  After I graduated from zoo school in my early 20s, I took a job at a farm theme park, where I was in charge of training farm animals for fun and educational presentations.  These animals included goats, sheep, horses, chickens, pigs, rats, and pigeons.  

I enjoyed each and every one of them for the challenges and successes we had together, but of all the animals I worked with, the pigeons took a special place in my heart.  My first encounter with getting close to pigeons was cleaning a large aviary full of them.  I learned really quickly that parent pigeons are a force to be reckoned with.  I tried cleaning a pile of poop from behind a nest, which I later learned was just part of how they constructed their nest, gross.  When I reached close to the happy and content looking parent, they wing-chopped me!  I was so startled, I actually dropped my cleaning bucket.

So when you come close to a parent on their nest, they will forcefully slap their wing out at you and hit you away.  It's actually pretty intimidating.   When I was given the task of training pigeons for the farm presentation, I had free range of what I could do.  I was put in charge of two young fledgelings and as I got to know them, I started teaching them to jump short distances to my hand for food.  I wanted to showcase pigeons for their common behaviors around a farm, which is mostly eating spilled grain and flying in groups up to the nearest tree, so in deciding what to train them, I definitely wanted the pigeons to fly over the audience at some point, and then I had this image of someone being surrounded by flapping wings, probably from a movie I watched, and I decided I wanted to have the pigeons learn to fly around me in a circle.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

Over the next few weeks, I really bonded with the baby pigeons and they quickly caught on to what I was asking of them.  They were always so enthusiastic when they saw me coming and they were just very rewarding to work with.  I taught them how to fly from one hand to another across the stage so I could include volunteers in the show.  I also taught them how to fly from a hidden place behind me on the stage backdrop over the audience to another hidden compartment behind their seats, and I taught them how to fly around me and volunteers in a circle.

During this time, I learned how important it was to interact and socialize with the pigeons every day to establish a solid trust bond.  I learned that they were so much smarter and quicker at learning new things than I ever thought they were.  For some reason, I thought pigeons weren't smart.  I realized that the bad reputation pigeons have for being a nuisance and spreading disease might be warranted, but there wasn't nearly enough emphasis put on how special these birds are.

Now, the job at the farm theme park was my first job after graduating from college as an animal trainer and while I was fairly confident that I could apply my knowledge of training, the pigeons were my first big challenge and the experience was just so satisfying.  The pigeons were free-flighted, meaning that if they didn't want to participate, they could have simply flown away, so every time they chose not to fly away and instead fly back to me, felt like a huge honor, and it wasn't just me on stage.  I invited audience members up to be part of the experience, too, and they left with a love and appreciation for pigeons.

So it was rewarding on that level as well.  Having such a successful and fulfilling experience with the pigeons made a profound impact on me.  During a time when I could have floundered in my animal career, my pigeons lifted me up and helped me become who I am today and I've trained many more pigeons over the years.  

 (06:00) to (07:34)

Now, I'm not the only one that thinks pigeons are awesome.  They have been living alongside humans for thousands of years and may be the oldest domesticated bird species.  They've been bred for good looks, interesting flying abilities, and even for human consumption.  I haven't known them in these capacities, but I do know pigeons for how forgiving they can be.  I know them for how they can brighten up my mood for their enthusiasm for life and food.  I know them for showing me a level of trust that I now strive for in all my interactions with animals, and I know them for their curiosity, playfulness, and gentle nature.  Unless you're messing with their babies.  Then you'd better watch out for that wing-chop!

So pigeons have some pretty amazing facts tied to their name, but it's my personal experience with the wonderfulness of pigeons that solidifies my love and appreciation for each and every one of them.  Thank you, Churro, for brightening up my days.  

Do you have a similar experience with an animal that changed your life?  If you do, please share them in the comments below.  I'd love to hear your stories, and if you'd like to continue enjoying animals with us, please subscribe and you can go on an adventure with us every week.  Thanks for watching and we'll see you next week.