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Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan ...…

Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan ... And the World

by Courtney Humphries

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808222,184 (3.56)4
  1. 00
    The Condor's Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America by David S. Wilcove (DevourerOfBooks)
    DevourerOfBooks: Although these aren't quite on the same topic (how one 'invasive' species gained prominence vs. how wildlife has been destroyed), I cannot help but be reminded of "The Condor's Shadow" while reading "Superdove."

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I'm not entirely sure how I found this book, but I have no complaints whatsoever. Because this book is just plain entertaining.

I really enjoyed the combination of popular science and journalism. This isn't a book written from other books - the bibliography is solid, but the author also did a (frankly amazing) amount of personal research, from talking with scientists to attending pigeon fancy shows. The style reminds me of long-form journalism, with the added benefit of chapter breaks (and no pressure to read the whole thing in one go).

As for the content... I didn't even know there is so much to learn about pigeons. And it really made me think about the way we separate nature and man-made environments and the animals living within them.

Also, Darwin turning into a pigeon fanboy will never stop being adorable.

If you like nature documentaries, learning new things, well-written journalism, ecology, and/or pigeons, you will like this book. ( )
  annathecrow | Feb 14, 2019 |
This is a quick read about a bird that gets little respect, the pigeon. Many regard pigeons with horror as defilers of public monuments and spreaders of germs, while ornithologists tend to overlook them as being not "real" birds worthy of study. Despite this, pigeons have a long history of human interaction. They have been kept for food, used to convey messages, and are for showing and racing. The lowly (or rather, fascinatingly complex) pigeon helped Darwin formulate his theory of natural selection, and B.F. Skinner even wanted to train them to set off missiles! Like another bird that happily coexists with people, the crow, people tend to either love them or hate them, but either way, this is a fun and informative book.
  EsmereldaCrow | Jun 9, 2010 |
Very educational.
  sandbergscott | May 21, 2009 |
Fairly decent book about the lives of feral pigeon populations around the world and how different cities cope with these birds in some alternative ways. You will be able to see some of the authors own biases come through that actually don't have anything to do with these pigeons. It was hard to stay interested in the material. ( )
  pigeon_racer | Apr 27, 2009 |
I enjoy "micro-histories", and one look at that tough pigeon on the cover of this book and I was hooked.

Courtney Humphries has created a fascinating look at the pigeon. I was especially interested to learn that they "date" for a period of days before mating. There was a discussion of why we never see baby pigeons, "pigeon mothers" (older women -- mostly -- who feed pigeons and how this makes a huge difference to the bird population in a given area), several tests to try to learn how pigeons find their way home, and a lot more. Fascinating. ( )
  LynnB | Feb 6, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061259160, Hardcover)

Why do we see pigeons as lowly urban pests and how did they become such common city dwellers? Courtney Humphries traces the natural history of the pigeon, recounting how these shy birds that once made their homes on the sparse cliffs of sea coasts came to dominate our urban public spaces. While detailing this evolution, Humphries introduces us to synanthropy: The concept that animals can become dependent on humans without ceasing to be wild; they can adapt to the cityscape as if it were a field or a forest.

Superdove simultaneously explores the pigeon's cultural transformation, from its life in the dovecotes of ancient Egypt to its service in the trenches of World War I, to its feats within the pigeon-racing societies of today. While the dove is traditionally recognized as a symbol of peace, the pigeon has long inspired a different sort of fetishistic devotion from breeders, eaters, and artists—and from those who recognized and exploited the pigeon's astounding abilities. Because of their fecundity, pigeons were symbols of fertility associated with Aphrodite, while their keen ability to find their way home made them ideal messengers and even pilots.

Their usefulness largely forgotten, today's pigeons have become as ubiquitous and reviled as rats. But Superdove reveals something more surprising: By using pigeons for our own purposes, we humans have changed their evolution. And in doing so, we have helped make pigeons the ideal city dwellers they are today. In the tradition of Rats, the book that made its namesake rodents famous, Superdove is the fascinating story of the pigeon's journey from the wild to the city—the home they'll never leave.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:59 -0400)

An evolutionary and cultural history of the pigeon takes readers from the dovecotes of ancient Egypt and trenches of World War I to the pigeon-racing societies and city park benches of the modern world, in an account that explores the pigeon's role as creature that is both wild and dependent on humans.… (more)

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