Saturday, 17 May 2014

Pigeons galore!

Its late Spring in England so there are plenty of young fledgling birds around in gardens at the moment. My younger sister phoned excitedly last weekend to say that the mallard duck nesting in her garden had produced upwards of ten ducklings. What a responsibility! I am reminded that when she and I were young we followed the annual progress of robins nesting in the large, door-less and ramshackle shed-cum-garage at the bottom of our parents' garden. Baby robins are very appealing And trusting!). They have an unnaturally wide yellow "gape" and long wispy feathers intermingled with their emerging adult plumage. This "fuzzy" stage only lasts a few days after fledging - so cute when back-lit!

Adopted pigeon squab Charlie in the USA!

Baby robin. Image: copyright Sue Bryan
Blackbirds successfully breed where I live and I watch the progress of their young. Large (and rather stupid) wood pigeons have always frequented our garden too but I have to say I have never spotted a young one.

In Medieval times, domesticated pigeons provided a reliable source of winter protein for rural people of all classes. A chicken's reproduction dropped off in winter so the pigeon, with its long breeding season, provided a solution to this problem. MedievalMorsels produces 12th scale dollshouse miniature foods including oven roasted pigeon for a Medieval or Tudor feast or dining setting! Though equally acceptable in a witch or warlock diorama, a barbarian themed or fairy miniature setting.

Pigeons were first domesticated 5,500 years ago in Asia. The sub-species living alongside man are all descended from the Rock Pigeon. Though its unlikely that pigeon eggs were eaten as a product of pigeon husbandry, instead they were left to develop into squabs (young pigeons) destined for the pot or spit roast! In poultry terms, the first one inch scale miniature dollshouse food that MedievalMorsels modelled had to be the pigeon! And not the goose, capon, guineafowl or duck - all of which were eaten alongside wildfowl of all descriptions. I have yet to model most of these.

 Whole roasted pigeon for a Medieval or Tudor feast
How were the pigeons supposed to fly in?

Close to where I live is a track called Pigeon House Lane complete with its own "pigeon house", listed by English Heritage. But curiously this square stone building has no means of access for the birds so is probably a misnamed 19th or 18th century stable. See what you think - opposite!

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