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  1. Reassessing the Pigeon | On Point
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Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan 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.

Reassessing the Pigeon | On Point

While detailing this evolution, Humphries introduces us to synanthropy: The concept t Why do we see pigeons as lowly urban pests and how did they become such common city dwellers? 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. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 8. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Superdove , please sign up. Lists with This Book.

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Why Cities Have So Many Pigeons

More filters. Sort order. Apr 09, Cheryl rated it really liked it. There's just not been a lot of research on pigeons, and so there's not a lot of material for Humphries to work with Which further means that it's a pretty fun read for the casual armchair naturalist. More engaging, imo, than the others of the type that I've read recently: Weeds and Subirdia. Also do know that she's a science writer Not a scientist. Generally that perspective makes for a flawe There's just not been a lot of research on pigeons, and so there's not a lot of material for Humphries to work with Generally that perspective makes for a flawed work, but this seemed to me just fine.

So what's your favorite book about synanthropes? I wonder why this is the first I've heard of it. Must try to find examples. Erasmus Darwin View 2 comments. Jul 23, Mike rated it liked it Shelves: books-read-in I have just finished the unique story about pigeons. This lighthearted study of this bird gives the reader a new way to look at the pigeon and how it has impacted our lives. Ms Humphries gives us her own personal look as she expresses her study of these birds, while keeping it light, she fills us with knowledge and the unexpected look at the value of these birds.

Rats with wings

If you are looking for something strangely interesting, this could be the book to pick up and read. Jan 12, Sam Nigh rated it it was ok. I'm not as a rule, interested in birds, but I was interested in learning more about Rock Pigeons and how they have come to dominate the urban landscape. I'm not sure I have learned much additional from this book, except to call them 'Rock Pigeons', Egyptians kept pigeons, and there are much better books on this topic than 'SuperDove. Her chapter writing is fine and enjoyable, but where is the book?

It's her first book and she randomly interjected her own reflections randomly throughout, mostly toward the end of chapters where it feels like filler. If she'd clearly expanded on all her research, she would have more than enough material. She herself says pigeon history is thousands of years old. My main issue is the chapter organization; if I'd cut my book apart by chapter and randomly reshuffled all of the them except the 1st chapter it would have made about as much sense as the end result.

Courtney Humphries please keep writing books, but please learn from writing your first! View 1 comment. This book was a fun little escape. Some people read romance novels. I read books about quirky topics. It suits my offbeat personality, what can I tell you. How many people do you know who would read a book about a bird most people chose to ignore? I guess that's what drew me to this book in the first place. And now, after reading Superdove , I know why. They may be common, but pigeons are truly remarkable creatures. I'll never look at another pigeon the same way again.

Mar 21, Maria rated it it was amazing. I'm pretty sure that the title and cover image were put together by the publisher without much input from the author, because I thought the book was much more subtle and thought-provoking than you might guess from the "superdove" picture but an easy and pleasurable read nonetheless.

Humphries does a wonderful job of exploring our conceptions about invasive species, what being "wild" and "natural" really means, the wonder that is evolution, and a lot else, all though the lens of a creature that I'm pretty sure that the title and cover image were put together by the publisher without much input from the author, because I thought the book was much more subtle and thought-provoking than you might guess from the "superdove" picture but an easy and pleasurable read nonetheless.

Humphries does a wonderful job of exploring our conceptions about invasive species, what being "wild" and "natural" really means, the wonder that is evolution, and a lot else, all though the lens of a creature that, when you take a closer look, disrupts a lot of our usual categories. The story of the pigeon captures a lot about the big story of "man and nature" and Humphries does a great job of presenting the intimate and changing history of our relationship with this bird, including the divergent attitudes of scientists today.

Really, she doesn't just present one story, but manages to present many different stories of the pigeon, past and present, and they are often very surprising. I came away from this book knowing more about Darwin, urban ecology, ornithology, the dynamics of activism, oddball hobbyists, the practice of science, B. Skinner, and the Swiss nanny state! I think this is science writing at its best--informative and perspective changing. In a time when we are increasingly grappling with our role on the planet, the story of the pigeon turns out to have a lot of relevance! Jul 27, Melissa rated it liked it Shelves: ecology , natural-history.

While there are gaps in Humphries' research, the topic itself is a rich one and this book opens up further social-history research into the subject of the urban pigeon, a most resilient and fascinating species.

The battle of the window ledges

And while I would have liked the author to explore the relevant social angles more robustly rather than so personally, I could not help but see why her stories always also veered towards the personal observations since she seems to have become very emotionally involved--more than she expe While there are gaps in Humphries' research, the topic itself is a rich one and this book opens up further social-history research into the subject of the urban pigeon, a most resilient and fascinating species.

And while I would have liked the author to explore the relevant social angles more robustly rather than so personally, I could not help but see why her stories always also veered towards the personal observations since she seems to have become very emotionally involved--more than she expected to. It's an interesting book that weaves together different strands of a great story on an under-studied but fascinating bird population. Jun 26, Matt rated it really liked it Shelves: birds , read-in , female-authors.

A fun, quick, entertaining read full of information about pigeons.

Perhaps not as funny as it could have been I'd love to see this subject matter in Mary Roach's hands , but solid. I'd recommend to anyone who has ever thought, "What's their deal?


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Sep 24, D. There are a few amazing features of this well written story of how pigeons have "fitted" into the world humans have made. The research is so careful, and spans several branches of science. I encourage reading this- even if you haven't time to do it in two stints, it is just as enjoyable if spread out over a year, or even longer. But I'll bet you get hooked, and finish it much more quickly!

Mar 01, Tom Hynes rated it liked it. This book is fine, but I have no idea why the word "Manhattan" is on the cover. Nov 22, mike rated it liked it.

Warranty & Guarantee:

I picked this book up and set it down dozens of times over the months it took me to get through it. I ran through "Rats" much faster. In short, "Rats" had a more compelling narrator, if only in his neurotic stalking of the four-legged vermin.