Or something built by spendthrift emperors in Ancient Rome.
This is the State Education Department building in Albany, NY.
I marvel at the beauty of this building, and also at what’s perched on top of it.
Now, if you’ve been reading this blog you know I like odd plants. My favorites of all are dandelions and poison ivy. I just have a thing for the unloved ones. And so, being the perverse creature I am, my favorite birds are crows, gulls, and (sorry) pigeons.
Yes, pigeons. Feathered rats. The dandelions of the avian world.
How do pigeons do it? I mean, it certainly isn’t by being crafty and outsmarting humans. Pigeons are not among the most intelligent of animals. Or at least they don’t look smart…they waddle around sticking out their chests and doing that head-bobbing thing.
But actually, maybe they’re not so dumb. A study in the December issue of the journal Science showed that pigeons can do as well as monkeys (and probably better than me) in learning mathematical concepts, like putting groups in numerical order based on how many objects are in the group. It’s been well proven that pigeons, like crows, can identify individual humans by facial characteristics. Pigeons have adapted very successfully to life in cities (a feat I certainly haven’t accomplished.)
Pigeons aren’t a native species, but they’ve come to fill the niche of being a major food source for native birds of prey. Peregrine falcons, in particular. The endangered peregrines could never have made their stunning come-back, nesting on skyscrapers in cities, without an abundant supply of plump and juicy pigeons.
As with dandelions, the problem with pigeons is mostly more aesthetic than ecological. They’re pests, they’re weeds, they mess up that which we prefer to be tidy (lawns, sidewalks, the tops of statues’ heads…)
Anyway, here on top of the most impressive building in the state capital, a temple dedicated to education–arguably humanity’s noblest and most lofty goal–are the pigeons.