By Dr Beck
Being raised in the West, my first belief was that Corvids were the smartest birds imaginable. Ravens and crows. I once saw a magpie (another type of corvid) stare down a cat ON THE GROUND. The magpie did not flinch. The cat had to skitter away. There were studies conducted at the UW-Seattle on crows having the ability to distinguish facial features in humans, and whether such and such human was a friend or foe.
Introduction to Columbidae
I had not been to Chicago, in a long time. Then one afternoon recently, I was riding the EL down to the Loop, and three African-American young ladies sat across from me, Unlike most everyone else, while they were checking their cellphones they were ear bud-less. They were talking to each other about, of all things, pigeons. They had noted rather scientifically, that only pigeons could be seen everywhere in the city now where before (when they were “just girls” 10 years ago) pigeons were one of many birds to be seen and heard.
“I wonder why?”, they said almost in unison at the realisation. I was listening to their conversation and told them I heard them talking, saying I wanted to find out too! What I found out, so far, is this.
Pigeons are smart. And intelligent. They can learn and retrieve that knowledge rapidly. Pigeons seem inocuous, and ‘peace-loving’ little denizens. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. They are aggressively territorial towards other species of birds.
Pigeons can count, intrinsically. That means they don’t have to “learn” to count, but can count as part of their nature.
Pigeons can learn to read. I will type that again. Pigeons can learn to read, any human language! We still do not understand how the pigeon-brain works, but it is proportionally larger (brain-to-body) than a human brain.
Pigeons have come to live with us in our urban areas, as they, no doubt understand we are the highest evolved species next to them. In fact, as noted by Charles Darwin in the opening passages of “On The Origin of Species”, pigeon-fanciers have been breeding pigeons and “evolving” them for over a century for certain chararcteristics of intelligence (e.g. carrier-pigeons). It seems only “natural” then that pigeons should evolve some of our characteristics.
Since they are naturally territorial, as a brighter bird have driven out their competition so that they are now the dominant avian in the Loop.
Here is a list of references for your EL-time reading: