One of the things that stand out vividly in my memory of my childhood holidays was feeding the pigeons in Durban with my grandmother. She used to collect all the breadcrumbs and crusts for days before we arrived and then take us out to the beachfront to go and feed the doves. I used to love standing still while they flock around me picking at the bread crumbs. I would squeal with delight every time one landed on my hand clutching at my fingers with their pink claws.
After emptying our stash of bread crumbs we would run through the pack of doves scattering them and chasing them to the next feeding spot.
I didn’t have any breadcrumbs with me but bought a packet of peanuts which the doves seemed to love just as much. Feeding the pigeons while trying to capture them on camera was quite a task but I do think that in the end I got a couple of good shots of them. It still freaks me out a bit every time they sit on my hand clutching onto my fingers and I couldn’t wait to wash my hands afterwards but it was so much fun.
Feral pigeons are often considered a pest or even vermin, owing to concerns that they spread disease although it is rare that a pigeon will transmit a disease to humans due to their immune system. Even if this is true I don’t want to take any chances so immediately washed my hands with hand-sanitizer.
These are what people call city pigeons, or street pigeons, as they were originally domestic pigeons that have returned to the ” wild”. They have now taken over the ledges of our cities and become pests, almost rodents in their own way. It is said that pigeons find the ledges of buildings to be a substitute for sea cliffs as they were originally bred from the wild rock dove, which naturally inhabits sea-cliffs and mountains.
What really surprised me was that pigeons mate for life, something I thought was quite rare in bird species. Especially because mass nesting is common as pigeons are a community flocking bird.
It is said that pigeons breed when the food supply is abundant enough to support embryonic egg development, which in cities can be any time of the year. Laying of eggs can take place up to six times per year so they multiply almost as quickly as rabbits. I haven’t seen any pigeon nests around but there is definitely not a shortage of pigeons in Cape Town.