The 'Common' Pigeon, Dodo for the 21st Century.....
Writing recently about the humble pigeon proved to be a real eye opener for me.
On one hand I discovered a well organised network of very kind and dedicated people who rescue these gentle doves, but on the other hand I was dismayed to discover that the population of feral pigeons, considered by many people to be a 'pest', has dropped significantly in recent times so that now it is estimated that there are only 100,000 pairs of the birds left in the UK. This is astonishing given their popular status as a nuisance. A population this small in other species might land them on the endangered list.
The problem for UK pigeons is that they are covered by what is known as a 'general licence', which entitles anybody to “...kill or capture certain wild birds (including removing or destroying their eggs and nests)”... in order to (amongst other reasons) “prevent the spread of disease or preserve public health and safety” both of which criteria, I would suggest, are open to wide interpretation.
I imagine that there are many individuals and companies who will use this licence to destroy pigeons whether or not their reasons for doing so fall into these rather vague categories.
And I suspect that this is the reason pigeon numbers are falling.
A few years ago one only had to wander through any town centre to see plenty of these characterful birds cleaning up the streets after dirty humans who would drop their litter without a second thought. Now our city thoroughfares seem bereft of pigeons and it is clear that the single minded (not to say small minded) people who wanted to see them exterminated have largely had their way. Scattered individuals are all that can be spotted of the once healthy populations of this much maligned bird. A combination of killing them and deterring them from their nesting and roosting sites using spikes and other anti-environmental methods of control has all but defeated the birds. Once again, the human population has succeeded in effectively destroying another species.
The sad fate of our feral pigeon's close relative and symbol of extinction, the Dodo, proves that mankind will glibly pursue any species into annihilation.
59 species of pigeon and dove are today threatened with extinction. 18 are already extinct.
The Socorro Dove from Mexico has not been seen in the wild since 1972 and the Negros Fruit Dove hasn't been spotted since 1953. Both might be considered lost to the world through the ignorance of mankind and human indifference to their vulnerability.
We know these days about the delicate balance between mankind and nature and yet still we are driving more and more species into oblivion.
And complacency abounds. Once one of the most common birds, the North American Passenger Pigeon, which numbered up to 5 billion individuals, was hounded into total extinction by humans, the last known example died in 1914.
From 5 billion to zero in a hundred years shows just what kind of extermination mankind is capable of.
I fully expect the feral pigeon to become largely extinct from our towns and cities within a decade – and our urban conurbations will be sadder and more sterile places without them. Not content with cutting down trees and building on green spaces, councils across the UK are now trying to obliterate any kind of wildlife that still manages to exist alongside the human population. What they don't seem to realise is that if we choose not to co-exist with other species then we are putting ourselves at risk. We are, after all, inter-dependent creatures whether we choose to acknowledge this fact or not.
It's time to treasure the pigeon.
Before it's too late.
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