Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Carrier" Pigeons and Pigeon Paraphernalia

So- called Carrier, ie messenger pigeons (sophisticated bird folks know they are Racing Homers, not the heavily wattled show bird of that name) have been in the news a lot lately.


Reid sent this article about a lost WW II messenger from the legendary Code and cryptography center Bletchley Park discovered in an English chimney; Tim Gallagher sent still another version. The "Weekend" Wall Street Journal reports on the French debate about maintaining a flock for disaster relief (I had thought the Swiss were the only recent European bird "employers"). Perhaps the fact that the Chinese fleet is large and expanding might give us a clue to their continuing relevance..

I have always fooled around with messenger pigeons and believe they are useful. The late great Grand Canyon guide Wesley Smith used to use them to carry film out of the Grand in the 70's and so discovered the resident Peregrine population before the ornithologists ("Takes three birds-- one for the falcon, one for the tiercel, and a good one for the film!") I also collect pigeon paraphernalia and tools from all over the world. Here are, first, a bunch of message containers, both WW II US and modern Swiss high tech versions with Red Cross markings given to me by (excellent) filmmaker Jim Jenner (Google him), including a "backpack" for heavier loads; some Indonesian tail whistles, and a melodious Chinese gourd flute beside a flute- bearing stuffed bird from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Finally, some bangles as worn by birds in Turkey and Arab countries and a flying dewlap by Sir Terence Clark, wearing earrings.



I continue to insist, with Darwin and David Quammen (see "Superdove on 46th Street"), that even "street" pigeons are among our most interesting commensals...

3 comments:

Chas Clifton said...

Didn't I pass an older, funkier Swiss harness on to you?

Steve Bodio said...

No--- but would love to have one!

Chas Clifton said...

Could have sworn . . .