Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Feral Pigeon

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The Feral Pigeon

Where have all the feral pigeons gone? There was a time that we could use up the stale bread that we had by going down to the "Pigeon Park”? And feeding them.

 

 

To Those of you that are too young to remember the place that we fed them, it is where the fountain is at the present time. Many years ago before the fountain was built there stood for many years the monument built in honour of Alexander Bannatyne Stuart. This was moved to its new site near the children’s corner years ago. It was a good move as the statue and plinth was a favourite place for the pigeons to sit and to stain it with their droppings. Although at times the seagulls now use it, it does not appear to suffer the same as when the pigeons used it.

It was good fun feeding the birds, as they showed no fear and would land on your hand and feed out of it, and if you put bread in both hands and held them out you may have had a few pairs trying to feed at once, and you may have had one on you head as well waiting for a space to appear for its share.
There seemed to be lots and lots of them around, and they all seemed to wait on the roof above the Gallowgate post office which was a good vantage point to scan for a child with a poke containing crumbs. There would be plenty of bread for them to eat as the bread in these days did not contain the preservatives that they do today so a loaf had to be eaten very quickly or it would soon become what was called "a cutting loaf". This was a loaf that had gone hard and would only be used for toast as they did not make good "pieces" for the workers lunch. So hard outsiders and the like were taken to the pigeons corner.

They are funny eaters these birds, as they can't hold on to their food, they always seem to be flicking it over their shoulders. This is okay on the ground but if they are on a window ledge they lose most of it. They are not too keen to search on the ground for it if it has fallen in or near bushes. The fear of cats keeps them away from situations like this. Other birds like dunnocks, robins etc. will help clean up what has been dropped as they are small enough to nip through the bushes and away from danger, but not all the time.
If you do feed them from your window, check that you will not cause any problems with what the pigeons will drop. If the other birds can't get at it, it may cause other problems as it rots, and may even attract vermin. So where are they now? Around Fifty plus of them have taken up residence at the old St James Church in High street.

Things are afoot to stop them entering this building as they do make the most awful mess that will have ever seen. So they may have to move again, perhaps to the vacant building a few yards away, or they may join the ones at the West Church. So where did these ones come from? These are the ones that were across the road staying in the derelict property above the newsagents. now Springfield Place As that was pulled they moved house A derelict property is ideal for them, as after a while the window cords on the top sash will rot , thus releasing the counter weights and the sashes will then slide down to the sill giving instant access to the pigeons and other birds for as long as the building is standing, or they may enter through a broken window.

The ones in my photo having a wash in the castle moat, are the high street ones. There is sometimes a queue waiting for a dip and splash. In the summer they can at times be seen as far away from the bank as much as one metre for a short time only. This seems to be a way for them to cool down. Most birds can survive a short dip in deep water as they can always use their wings to propel themselves to the bank and preen themselves dry, as long as the bank is not too far away.
All birds’ feathers all have a certain amount of waterproofing to cope with heavy rain etc., so it's no big problem for them to have a dip now and then. Where did they come from originally, well their ancestors are Rock Doves which live on our rocky coasts, and are the ancestors of all tame and wild pigeons. Racing birds and dovecot ones that escaped, took up residence in our towns living off man’s scraps and also being fed by the public in parks. The down side is that many of the feral ones are returning to the cliffs and breeding with the true rock dove, and so tainting the stock so that very few wild birds remain, and those that do are in the north and west coasts. The parks would not be the same without the feral ones, nor would the railway stations.

 They have been in our cities and towns for hundreds of years and will be there hundreds of years from now. Feed the Birds, 2d a Bag.

Norrie Mulholland.


First Published in the Buteman. 21-03-2003


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