15 May 2014

Pigeons - A Commentary from Indiana

Vevay, (Indiana), Feb. 27.

The immense number of pigeons, that inhabit the western regions of the United States have excited the admiration and astonishment of travellers, and occasioned from some of them, very wonderful accounts, which many, who have not been eye witnesses, have considered as fabrications. Although the pigeon is decidedly a bird of the wilderness, yet it does not hesitate to encroach on the settlements of man, and often proves destructive to his wheat and corn-field

There is probably, no other species of the feathered tribe, that make such wide excursions in quest of their daily food, and return every night to their roosting places, or properly speaking, to the young : for the pigeons-roosts, so much spoken of, are places selected for the season of laying their eggs and rearing their young, and these places are often chosen in the neighbourhood of considerable settlements of men, who seldom fail to embrace such opportunities to supply their tables with squabs, and to amuse themselves in harrassing their winged visitors, by every means in their power, shooting them — raising large fires under them — crushing them to death, in thousands, by felling trees, & c. but all these annoyances and depredations, have no effect in routing them.

The destruction produced by human cruelties, is like taking a drop from a full bucket, or the fall of a few soldiers in a great army. There are, at this time, several of these roosts, scattered over the central and northern frontier counties of Kentucky, throughout which section of the state, the production of mast was very great last season : and the writer of this, who lives about 12 miles from the nearest of these roosts, witnessed almost daily the havoc made upon this mast by these vast hordes of pigeons. They sweep the forests in such immense flocks that they keep up a noise, through the day, somewhat resembling a continued thunder : and not infrequently, in such sudden peals, as to very much impede the equestrian traveller, if he has not a very gentle horse.

From a computation, it appears, there are upon a square mile, every day, 5000; that they embrace a tract of country, several miles square, so that allowing one half of this area to be filled at the rate above mentioned, there would be above twelve millions. Pigeons are great gormandizers, and it appears, from calculation that allowing their food only equal to one gill of wheat peer day, which is supposed to be short of the quantity of nutriment they would require, they would consume about 115,327 bushels per day — this at fifty cents per bushel, would amount to 57,663 dollars. Providence has given them a peculiar power of seeking far and wide, through the fertile forests of the west, to gratify that appetite & gather up the surplus fruits of the earth, which would otherwise waste, like the leaves, to enrich the soil that produces them.

April 12, 1824. Pigeons. Trenton Federalist 25(1311): 2.