Now the pigeon can add artist’s muse to its illustrious CV. As seen in the video above, American artist and long-time pigeon fancier Duke Riley recently staged an enormous nocturnal public art project, featuring thousands of homing pigeons cavorting above New York with tiny LED lights attached to their legs. Watching the birds swoop and sparkle against the night sky like a riot of shooting stars is enough to beguile the even harshest pigeon critic.
After all, it’s a well-known fact that very few birds get a worse rap than the pigeon. Whether they’re being reviled for dumping their sloppy droppings on statues, cars and people’s heads, or (allegedly) spreading disease, pigeons can’t seem to do much right. Woody Allen’s “rats with wings” slur in Stardust Memories didn’t exactly do wonders for their reputation, either.
Perhaps it’s a case of familiarity breeds contempt: as one of the earliest animals to be domesticated, pigeons have served humans as message-carriers, racing birds and companions for millennia. Not wanting to undermine your pet budgie or anything, but when it comes to feathered friends, pigeons really are the original and the best.
OK, so maybe peacocks, swans, eagles and 90% of other birds would trump pigeons in an avian beauty pageant, but can any of them claim to have inspired Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species? Didn’t think so. And sure, pigeons occasionally forget their manners when scavenging for food scraps, but what’s a little argy-bargy from the animal kingdom’s most decorated war heroes?
Throw in an in-built sense of direction that rivals any GPS, the ability to distinguish between paintings by Picasso and Monet, a knack for detecting breast cancer on biopsy slides and myriad other surprising skills (seriously, the pigeon’s talents are legion), and these unassuming, ubiquitous little birds start looking pretty special.
Home page image: Paul B via Flickr