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I'm taking a brief break today from my usual blog topics of food, travel, and Italy. I thought I'd share the strange thoughts that struck me yesterday at an odd moment.

Brad and I were running typical Saturday morning errands. On our way to Costco, we stopped at the cleaners for the usual weekly drop-off and pick-up. I waited in the car while Brad went in to the cleaners.

I noticed lots of pigeons on the roof of the building. Actually, there were 57 of them. I was bored, so I counted them. In this moment of observing nature, I noticed a couple of things. The pigeons seemed to be clustered in groups, and some in pairs. They shared the rooftop space. Most of the pigeons were some shade of grey, some with more, or less, black or white feathers. Some were light, some were dark. There was one RED pigeon. Its feathers were the color of a carrot red-headed child with freckles. It stood alone the whole time. Pigeons came and went, flew off, and others joined the group. But no pigeon EVER came near the red one. For some reason, that made me sad. Was he/she lonely? Sick? Did it have a "personality disorder"? Was it ostricized because it was different? Was I just projecting human feelings on these birds? Before I could decide, an interesting thing happened.

ALL 57 pigeons began flapping, and flew off! They scattered in every direction. Then I saw the huge hawk. One of the white pigeons had flown south, and the hawk followed it. In seconds, 56 pigeons returned safely (no, I didn't count them again), but all stood alertly on the peak of the roof, watching toward the south. The red-head was back, and stood off by him/herself, also looking toward the south. They stood like that for a couple of minutes, and then a few went back to their naps, while the majority "stood guard".

By then Brad had returned with our clothes, but I asked him to wait. After another minute or so, I saw the hawk circling back from the north, but all the pigeons were still looking south! The hawk flew past the roof, high above it, on his way to wherever hawks go, as the pigeons continued to face south. The red-head was still alone.

As we drove away, I shared with Brad what I had seen, as well as my thoughts about how it reminded me of a metaphor for our country's "War on Terrorism". We all take our shoes off at the airport, and are not allowed water bottles before passing through security. Maybe we should also look around in other directions?

Anyone know a red-headed pigeon who is looking for a meaningful relationship?

Comments (4)


Wow, Palma... Having been through so many diversity trainings and being a teacher of mostly English Learners and newly arrived (to this country) students, my first thought was discrimination. I am not sure what it really is, but wouldn't it be an interesting study if animals have discriminatory tendencies, practice bird (ethnic / specie) cleansing... very interesting... thanks for sharing the story...


Yes, wow Palma. I'm with Eden on this one - seems a sad tale of discrimination. Apparently pigeons are not color blind. I'm a redhead too and your story really touched my heart.

And apparently the hawk exhibited another form of discrimination. He singled out the white pigeon as a superior choice for his lunch.

Do you really think the pigeons are afraid of Mexico and other countries to the south of us?

What a profound story. It will have me pondering the significance of the pigeons' behavior for some time. And just the other day teachick had a wonderfully touching story about a pigeon. I will certainly look at these birds differently now.

I think it is a basic animal instinct to be with those like you. Many species will shun or attack those who are different. Many societies kill those individuals who are different. It is a sad animal behaviour that hopefully we can temper in humans - although I don't see it happening soon unfortunately!

I nominate you for philosopher status because you thought on that.

Gradually, however, I see the red ones getting into Italian flocks, with new pigeons showing up with interesting red details, so maybe there's hope for the pigeons. For us? Not sure.

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