Our frequent urban companion, cooing in the eaves of train stations or scavenging underfoot for breadcrumbs and discarded French fries, the pigeon has many detractors—and even some fans. Written out of love for and fascination with this humble yet important bird, Barbara Allen’s Pigeon explores its cultural significance, as well as its similarities to and differences from its close counterpart, the dove. While the dove is seen as a symbol of love, peace, and goodwill, the pigeon is commonly perceived as a filthy, ill-mannered flying rodent, a “rat with wings.”
Readers will find in Pigeon an enticing exploration of the historical and contemporary bonds between humans and these two unique and closely related birds. For polluting statues and architecture, the pigeon has earned a bad reputation, but Barbara Allen offers several examples of the bird’s importance—as a source of food and fertilizer, a bearer of messages during times of war, a pollution monitor, and an aid to Charles Darwin in his pivotal research on evolutionary theory. Allen also comments on the literary love and celebration of pigeons and doves in the work of such writers and poets as Shakespeare, Dickens, Beatrix Potter, Proust, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Along the way, Allen corrects the many stereotypes about pigeons in the hope that the rich history of one of the oldest human-animal partnerships will be both admired and celebrated.