Adventures in Los Angeles: Pigeon Edition

Hello Internet,

Joaquín here. Here at Harvey Mudd, we keep ourselves pretty well entertained and occupied with our clubs, sports, events and work, but it’s nice to have fun off campus too! So today, I’m going to be talking about only one of the many things to do in the Los Angeles area; in LA, there are concerts, sporting events, escape rooms, museums, art galleries, beaches, and dance clubs, but what about the really cool stuff?

Last weekend, while my friends went to the Santa Monica Pier, I went to see some pigeons. These were not your run-of-the-mill flying street rats; these were Show Pigeons. If you’ve never seen show pigeons before, feast your eyes on these!

Two show pigeons: a fantail and a Jacobin

(A white fantail on the left, and a Jacobin on the right)

At this pigeon-seeing tour, there were OVER a THOUSAND pigeons. They all belonged to Mr. Drew Lobenstein, a reputable show pigeon breeder who has been raising pigeons since he was six years old, so he definitely knew his stuff. He explained not only the history and genetics of pigeon breeding, but many pigeon-related facts. I learned that humans have been with their pigeon companions for over 5000 years, since they are a reliable source of meat, fertilizer and companionship. Although mostly written off as pests nowadays, as recent as the 1920s, pigeons held a popular role in the American public eye — pigeon keeping was listed as the third most popular hobby by the National Geographic in 1922.

I interacted with a fair number of pigeons at this event, but I particularly loved this baby pigeon (also known as a squab)! She was more than content to just sit in her little box as I gently pet her. Her feathers were quite rough, more like quills than feathers. Drew explained that feathers grow and emerge from these spines over time. Mother pigeons typically lay two eggs at a time, which hatch in slightly less than three weeks. Baby pigeons grow up quickly, leaving the nest about 4 – 6 weeks after hatching.

A fat baby pigeon, sitting next to an egg, in a box

Naturally, these show pigeons would not fare well in the wild; many of them lack peripheral vision due to their excessive plumage. Others might struggle to blend into their natural environment with their unnatural colors. As such, these pigeons typically stay with Drew for their entire lives, unless he sells them to another breeder or pigeon enthusiast. According to Drew, some of the rarer varieties might sell for tens of thousands of dollars to the right buyer.

A pigeon, happily sitting in its perch

At the end of the event, I actually had the opportunity to hold onto a pigeon, which has actually been a long-held dream of mine. Ever since I visited downtown Calgary as a child and saw the massive swarms of pigeons, I’ve wanted to hold a pigeon. However, try as I might, I was never able to catch them. Besides, I knew that the wild pigeons probably didn’t want to be caught and held, and I didn’t want to hurt them — this was my chance. Drew got a large group of people together, gave us all pigeons, and then we let all the pigeons go at the same time. Seeing all the pigeons flying about; it was an amazing sight to behold. If you’re interested in attending a future pigeon-related event, this is the website where I signed up for the tour. Remember, this could be you!

Joaquin, happily holding a white pigeon

Honestly, that’s one of the best parts about being near Los Angeles. Whether you like piers or pigeons, there’s always something cool nearby that you can get involved with.

Dreaming of birds from the blogosphere,

Joaquín “Pigeons > Pier” Fuenzalida Nuñez

Joaquin's little doodle letting everyone know that they should have a great day!