We came across this pigeon along our ride to Riley's yesterday. The peregrine falcons have really decimated the pigeons that used to congregate in downtown Madison, looking for handouts, so it's a long time since I've seen a pigeon up close. Lovely birds, really. At first I thought this pigeon might be a refugee from the urban slaughter, but that didn't make a lot of sense -- out in the open, pigeons are easy prey for every raptor and owl in the neighborhood, which is why you rarely see them in open country.
This pigeon seemed young, very well groomed and quite tame. We wondered if it was a homing pigeon or an escaped pet. It seemed comfortable with people and let us come very close. We had the feeling that if we stayed a little longer it would have let us hold it (would have been interesting to read the band on its leg).
The encounter led me to read about homing pigeons and their amazing capabilities, including this cool story about a homing pigeon that outperformed a DSL connection in transferring 4 gigs of data over 50 miles in an hour several years ago:
In September 2009, a South African IT company, based in Durban, pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a data packed 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest internet service provider, Telkom. The pigeon named Winston took an hour and eight minutes to carry the data 80 km (50 mi). Including downloading, it took two hours, six minutes, and 57 seconds for the data to arrive, the same amount of time it took to transfer 4% of the data over the ADSL.
When we continued our ride, the pigeon was still sitting there. I hope it's OK and that the hawks didn't get it.