Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Ultimate Randonneurs: Flying Pigeons

They play by slightly different rules, but Pigeons return home at 60 mph, almost never get lost, and can navigate like nobody's business. I know this by listening to a local radio program where they interviewed Andrew Blechman, author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's most Revered and Reviled Bird.
According to Blechman, Pigeons navigate by the sun and stars. But if you blindfold them, they navigate with other, more mysterious tools. One, apparently is ultrasound. He said they can hear, via ultrasound, the wind rushing over the rockies from 2000 miles away! They also steer by sensing the Earth's magnetic field.
They don't stop to flop down for naps. They don't stop to eat or drink. They'll go 24 hours at 60mph until they find home. Sunspots do screw with their navigating, but otherwise they just rocket.

To hear a podcast of the KUOW radio showon Blechman and his book, go here. A review of Blechman's book can be found in the New York Times.

Many cultures admire the Pigeon, or Rock Dove. In fact, the ubiquitous bicycle in China is the Flying Pigeon according to Wikipedia. It reminds me of the Atlas and Hero bicycles we saw all over India.

And finally, how about a YouTube video of that famous Flying Pigeon bicycle of China?

The Pigeon pictures are from Amazon (top) and Wikipedia (bottom).

Keep it going home,



  1. Getting dumped on by a pigeon is no fun. We got hit in St Mark's square in Venice, and while our Camera bag took the hit, it did seem like the blasted bird was aiming for my head... :)

  2. Like I said, those pigeons are determined and talneted!