“The dove is the poorest sow in the world”

Pigeons have an image problem: they are dirty, often ill, only nerve and transmit diseases – at least that’s what most people think. The “Friends of the City Doves” from Berlin take care of the animals and even share their homes.

“Hello, today we have the press here.”

Once a month the “Friends of the City Pigeons” meet in Berlin Charlottenburg. Of course in a vegan-vegetarian restaurant, because if you’re an animal lover, then right.

Why do you stand up for the pigeon?

“Because it is the poorest sow in the world. Because it is only disregarded, with bad adjectives is titled, but when you get married you want pigeons, which you throw up. I find that unfair. I feel really sorry for them.”

Antje Horstmann tells the other nine about her futile attempt to draw the staff’s attention to dead pigeons in a suspended ceiling at a railway station. The others nod, they know the problem.

“Well, maybe they have a lot to do, but I often notice a lack of interest in the subject of animal welfare”.

Why does the dove have such an image problem?

“Probably because an entire industry lives from this problem. We had the subject of bird repellents and the pest control industry with its spikes, which by the way do nothing except that the pigeons nest inside, and nets, spikes, all kinds of bird repellents – the industry earns well from it and does everything to make the pigeon unpopular.

The kitchen as a pigeon loft

27-year-old Andrea Lauschke founded the Stammtisch der Taubenfreunde just under a year ago. Here the bird friends talk about places that are critical for pigeons, talk about rescue operations and inform newcomers like me about the city pigeon. The dove: the feral, unpopular pet that actually needs our protection. It does not find pigeon-friendly grain food in the city, which makes the bird unpleasantly noticeable to us humans as an always hungry and nervous animal. Who wants to catch a dove to free its feet from hair and threads so that they are not strangled off? For the friends of the city pigeons a matter of course. And not only that.

“I have 13 pigeons at home.”

How do you have to imagine that?

“My kitchen is a pigeon loft and a part of my corridor. You have to clean it well. I just took one with me that burnt a foot on a high-voltage power line. She’s severely handicapped.”

Two days later I go to feed Andrea pigeons. With species-appropriate grains of course. This is allowed in the capital. Andrea throws a handful to the ground in front of her, the birds quickly come closer.

Too few dovecotes in Berlin

“People just don’t like the excrement, I can understand that, I don’t like it either. That’s why we need supervised pigeon lofts where the excrement is disposed of. Because if the pigeons weren’t here all day, there wouldn’t be all the excrement.”

Pigeons spend a good 80 percent of their time in pigeon lofts. In Augsburg and Aachen, the pioneering cities when it comes to pigeon protection, birds are even allowed to nest in listed buildings and the cityscape has become much cleaner since then. In addition, their populations can also be controlled in pigeon lofts, because artificial eggs are cheated under the breeding birds. It’s already working – except in Berlin, where there are far too few lofts for the 15,000 or so animals. And those that do exist are privately financed, the city doesn’t want to spend any money on the problem.

“If you feed them now, they won’t get on your nerves because they won’t have to run around between people. There is one standing on one leg, her feet are tied up, she should go to the vet. Simplest animal protection is: pick up threads. No animals tie themselves up in it and the Tiersch?tzer have less costs with the veterinary surgeon.

Pigeons are intelligence beasts

Pigeons have an incomprehensibly bad reputation. Above all city dwellers see in them mainly pests that pollute squares and facades. But the dove is much more than a useless bird. Our ancestors rightly appreciated the animals. Pigeons are intelligent animals. A new study shows that pigeons pick with a plan.

For centuries, pigeons and humans lived side by side. According to the German Nature Conservation Union (NABU), 500 million pigeons live in cities worldwide. But man doesn’t have much left for his former companion. The metabolism of the animals is disturbing. “The 40,000 Munich pigeons alone produce 480 tons of excrement a year,” the city council reported to the Financial Times. And so you demonize the bird that stands for peace and love to the “rat of the air” and hunt it down.

The dove as a lifesaver

Before the age of urbanization, people appreciated the dove very much. One even suspects that the intelligent bird was the first pet of our Stone Age ancestors. The ancient Egyptians also used it to deliver messages. Pigeons have a pronounced sense of orientation. They fly at up to one hundred kilometres per hour over long periods of time and without rest. In the Second World War they saved the lives of thousands of soldiers with their express messages at command bases, writes Rainer Stadler in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The invention of telecommunications gave the dove competition. Unfortunately – because it is now only regarded as a useless pest.

A recent study by the University of Iowa shows that humans completely underestimate pigeons. Here the pigeon once again proved to be an intelligence beast and computer hero. The professor of experimental psychology, Edward Wasserman, and his colleagues set the pigeons various tasks that the probands mastered with flying colours. The pigeons were shown two different strands on a touch screen, each connected by a button and a plate. One plate was empty, the other “filled” with pigeon treats. The pigeons knew in no time what to do and picked the button connected to the full plate with a high hit rate.

The dove: a perfect crisis manager

Wasserman tells Nature World News enthusiastically: “The pigeons proved that they can solve the task in many different ways. Even when the strands crossed, they pressed the right button.” The hit rate is astonishing: the pigeons picked between 74 percent and 90 percent correctly. For Wasserman, the results clearly show that pigeons can cope with complex problems. In this respect, according to him, the interpretations of their behaviour must be completely rethought.