Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan... and the World [NOOK Book]

Overview

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. 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...

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Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan... and the World

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Overview

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. 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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Whither the pigeon? Ubiquitous beast, rat of the sky, object of children's chase—how did this "un-bird," as some ornithologists deride Columba livia, become part of every city's natural environment? The answers span geography, evolution and culture, but the excellent Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan...and the World goes beyond, to explore what pigeons reveal about human nature. It isn't always pretty…Humphries is a wonderful storyteller, with a sly sense of humor and a light touch.
—Elizabeth Royte\
The Onion
“Humphries follows the pigeon’s development as a game bird, a cheap food source, a highlyprized messenger service, and ultimately, a modern-day pest...Humphries succeeds in examining something everyone takes for granted, and proving that it’s worthy of a second look.”
USA Today
“A first-person blend of science and culture.”
New Scientist
“Accessible and well-researched account”
Booklist
“Humphries makes us care about the lowly urban pigeon.”
SEED Magazine
“A fascinating biography.”
Audobon Magazine
“Enteratining and thorough account of the bird’s colorful history.”
New York Observer
“A cultural, historical, and biological study of the timeless human-pigeon relationship...giving meaning to a species you once saw as dirty and dull—if you saw them at all.”
David Gessner
“In prose as clear as water [Courtney Humphries] writes a compelling story of how pigeons conquered the world, while threading in history, anecdotes, and even the way that the birds we now consider a nusance helped Darwin create the theory of evolution.”
Ted Kerasote
“Superdove is one of the best natural history reads I’ve had in years.”
Robert Kanigel
“Smart and affectionate all at once, that sheds light on how one animal’s “nature” can be another’s Fifth Avenue. Reading it is simply a delight.”
Seed Magazine
“A fascinating biography.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061873461
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Courtney Humphries is a science writer living in Boston. She has written about biology, health, and the environment for publications including Newsweek, Harvard Magazine, Technology Review, Conservation Magazine, the Boston Globe, and Orion.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
The Pigeon's Progress     1
Invited Guests     7
Darwin's Metaphor     23
Hopeful Monsters     39
Homing     63
Hunt and Peck     81
Escape of the Superdoves     99
A Squab Is Born     115
The Urban Habitat     129
Defining Pigeons     139
Pigeon Mothers     153
Origin     173
Bibliography     185\
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A comprehensive and well written treatise on an overlooked subject.

    This is an excellent work of science writing that explores the history of the feral street pigeon from it's origin in the wild Rock Dove through domestication, it's usefulness as a food and for pleasure and in some surprising research, to it's amazingly successful adaptation to cities and why.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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