An important day for pigeon science
In the colder weather, the plants on the balcony are wilting.
At the beginning of the week the pair of pigeons who’ve taken up residence were looking increasingly desperate as their food supply was shrivelling and dying before their eyes.
I filled a small pot with birdseed and left it on the balcony.
In the summer, the pigeons had ignored pots of birdseed when I’d offered them, but with the food running out and the weather trending colder, the pigeons weren’t going to be choosy.
Once the seeds were gone, the pigeons tried to bring them back. They checked the pot out. They did a little dance. They flew off, came back, and checked the pot again. The first day, the pigeons behaved as if they believed that they’d found a magic pot. All they needed to do was invoke the correct sequence of actions to fill it up again.
Every morning, the pigeons fly off to see the Bird Lady who leaves crusts of bread for her flock. The pigeons have chosen to roost on the balcony because it has line of sight to the Bird Lady’s bungalow. When they see her putting on her dressing gown, off they fly to get their share.
Every morning this week I filled up the seed pot as the birds flew off to get their crusts.
For the first two days, the pigeons believed in the magic pot. Once the seeds were gone, they did a little dance, and flew off as though they were going to see the Bird Lady. When they flew back they checked the pot and were visibly disappointed.
By Wednesday, the pigeons were actively trying to understand the magic pot. They flew back early. They sat on the houses opposite and watched the balcony closely. By Friday, they’d figured out that I had something to do with the magic pot, and they flew back to the balcony as soon as they saw me leave it.
By today, Saturday, the pigeons had progressed from magic to science.
I overslept, and didn’t fill up the pot whilst they were getting their breakfast from the Bird Lady.
One of the pigeons stood by the empty pot. The other walked up and down the balcony. As it came to the French windows, it pecked on the glass - one, two, three. Backwards and forwards. Peck, peck, peck. One, two three. It didn’t stop its pecking march until I came out into the cold morning and filled the pot with birdseed.
In a week, the pigeons have gone from primitive animism to enlightenment: a journey that took the human race thousands of years.