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All About the Pigeons of Europe

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The Pigeon in Europe
pigeon picture

Pigeons in Istanbul

James Martin, Europe Travel, licensed to About.com

Pigeons, the traveler to Europe will note, are everywhere. They are a nuisance--everyone agrees, nodding knowingly. I hope to fix that. After all, pigeons scavenge all that junk food discarded in the streets and they deposit the digested remains of it everywhere on the fly. Pigeon poop. Universally despised. What's to like?

Governments try to get rid of them. Venice bans the (intentional) feeding of them. Other countries encourage the elimination of a male pigeon's sex organs. Slingshotting the birds is encouraged in some places.

And, of course, the French eat them. Oh, wait a minute, so do the Italians. And the Germans. And, well, just about everyone else in Europe.

Don't give me that holier than thou, "we wouldn't touch them" American revisionist stuff. Americans used to be the "pigeon-eatingest people in the world," according to Honest Food. Of course, now that the relative of the rock dove eats junk food on the streets; who'd wanna chow down on that?

It hasn't always been like this. Pigeons have been honored for their bravery in war. The raising of pigeons have contributed to interesting European architecture (yes, I'll introduce you to the above-ground and below ground dovecote and how to see one.) And yes, even pigeon-poop has had its admirers as a free fertilizer.

Pigeons have provided desperately needed food in desperate times. They've been gussied up to provide gourmet eats for the well-heeled modern traveler. We'll even tell you how to order them in a restaurant or prepare them at home (or in your vacation home; pigeon is readily available in European markets).

And, guess what? Not everybody in Europe is involved in pigeon eradication. Rather than fight the typical "war on pigeons" (a war that's as winnable--or un-winnable--as any guerrilla war), the folks of Istanbul embrace the pigeon, some making a living selling grains for pigeons in front of markets, as you'll see next.

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