Avian Mail

4-9-2019 aTwo darling girls recently asked me if we have pigeons here in Washington, D.C. and the answer is: Why yes! Yes we do! You’d be hard-pressed to find a city anywhere on earth without rock pigeons.

You, dear reader, may think of the pigeon as nothing more than the pestilential soiler of your windowsill, but I am here to tell you that they are so much more. Pigeons are noteworthy birds with special skills.

Pigeons have a remarkable homing ability which allows them to fly straight home, even when they have been taken very far away. Humans have domesticated the bird and then used this special pigeon skill for their own purposes. Pigeons have carried messages home for people for thousands of years.4-9-2019 b

To illustrate how delivery-by-pigeon works:

Let’s imagine I have pigeons who live in birdhouses in my garden. Then let’s say I go on a trip with my family. I take my pigeons with me so that I can send messages to my best friend, Hector, while I am away.

When I want to send Hector a note, I can simply attach it to one of my pigeons and then release the bird. The pigeon will fly straight home to its own birdhouse in my garden.

Hector would need to know to go check the pigeons’ birdhouses so he could see if one of my birds had come home bearing a letter, but I would obviously have explained this to him before I left town.

Over the years the method of attaching a message to a pigeon has changed. During World War I soldiers attached messages to their pigeons’ legs with teeny metal cannisters. Modern scientists attach bird-sized backpacks to pigeons to gather climate data.4-9-2019 c

9 responses to “Avian Mail”

  1. Hi, Bernice. How interesting about the pigeons. Do you think they could fly from Washington far, far away, say to New York or Chicago or Los Angeles? Never heard that there were pigeons in the Savanna of Africa. Do they live there as well? Maybe we could talk to our friends at the zoo to see if they have any carrier pigeon programs to take messages between zoos. Now that would be a neat way to communicate with our relatives around the countryl! How great that scientists are using the pigeons to check on climate change.


    • Hi Dad! Thanks for the comment!

      I have to look this up to be sure, but my understanding is that pigeons can find home from something like 1,000 miles away.

      I love you!


  2. Dear Bernice,
    We love your new blog post! Thank you for explaining more about pigeons! We like them a lot – we saw some in New York City!
    Oh! And guess what! We saw some forsythia on the hills near our house this morning – they’re so beautiful!
    Thanks again!
    E and A


    • Thank you for the comment E and A!

      I think the forsythia in your area blooms slightly later than the forsythia here. Ours is post-peak, though it still looks marvelous. The cherry blossoms have come and gone now – their blooms last for a much shorter period of time.

      I hope you have an absolutely splendid day today!

      I love you.


  3. To be honest, I would rather go on vacation with y’all than get messages by pigeon…. but I would like to get notes by avian mail if you went without me 😉


  4. Dear Bernice,
    It has been brought to my attention that while I am Official Scribe to E and A, I myself have not posted anything… on my own behalf. I love this post – the backpack especially. I had no idea pigeons were still used in modern times for anything useful until we first read this post a while back. Love you —


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