Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The pigeon that swam.

Saw this unusual sight down by the old canal. Hundreds of pigeons pecking away at the bricks on either side of the lock gate. Most of the birds flew away as I approached, settling noisily on the roof of an adjacent church. However, twenty or so hardy souls continued to peck away at the grouting, their beaks firmly below the waterline. Occasionally a pigeon would lose its hold and fall with a splosh into the canal. Amid much screeching it would right itself and rise , wet and dishevelled , skywards. Plumed inelegance. Who knew pigeons could swim ? What could they have been eating that made them so reckless ? The remarkable in the unremarkable.


  1. Impressive too, that they find a secure foothold in the wall from which to do the pecking,

  2. Seed eating birds, such as pigeons, will eat mortar for the grit it contains. Birds have no teeth for crushing food items, so they use small, hard pieces of stone, or sand as abrasive digestive helpers. Birds swallow small bits of grit to act like teeth in the gizzards, (or, as they are known in your p[art of the world "gesiers")a specialized stomach constructed of thick, muscular walls used for grinding up food. The grit helps to break down hard foods, such as seeds and the hard exoskeletons of some insects.

    Bird gizzards are lined with a tough layer made of keratin, to protect the muscles in the gizzard. All birds have gizzards, but not all will swallow stones or grit.

    They could also be a pecking at the mortar to obtain nutrients from it. Especially if there's limestone in cement and mortar (which, in an old wall like this, there will be) and it is largely made up of calcium carbonate.

    Birds need calcium carbonate to form eggshells and captive birds are often offered cuttle bones or broken eggshells to supplement their diet. Wild birds need to find a source themselves.

  3. You'd think they'd find more easily obtained mortar (referring to comment above.)

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  4. I can't view the photo but maybe they're finding bugs or algae. The calcium carbonate idea by the above poster seems most logical.

  5. thanks wishfully thinking! very interesting. never totally knew why.

    and i always like your little tiny videos angus!
    i think their body must serve them like a mae west life jacket
    til they can get their wings going. lol.

  6. Sometimes it's more fun not to know and to just come up with suppositions!

  7. The birds in your part of the world seem as colorful as the people. Birds that walk around and around the pool at the same hour every day, birds that risk life and limb for some mortar . . .

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