AN AMAZING FACT: Because there are so many pigeons in the world, we sometimes fail to appreciate these remarkable birds. Pigeons mate for life, make excellent parents, and have been known to live over 30 years! The racing pigeon is the marathon athlete of the air. It has the ability to beat its wings up to 10 times per second, and maintain a heart rate of 600 beats per minute for up to 16 hours without rest, while flying 50 to 60 mph! In addition, it can fly nearly straight up.
These skills have made homing pigeons a valuable communication tool for carrying messages in wartime. During WWII, 98 percent of pigeon missions were successful, often despite enemy fire. A famous WWI homing pigeon named Cher Ami delivered a vital message—the location of the famous Lost Battalion. The mission of that pigeon alone is credited with saving nearly 200 human lives! Cher Ami was awarded a medal for his heroic service. He died from his extensive battle wounds.
The French, Swiss, Israeli, and Chinese armies still use homing pigeons today because their messaging is not affected by electronic jamming. In the 17th century, King George of England decreed all pigeon droppings to be property of the Crown—and the lofts were policed to enforce the law! The reason? Pigeon manure was used in making gunpowder.
Advanced studies at the University of Montana and at Harvard have concluded: “Pound for pound, the pigeon is one of the smartest, most physically adept creatures in the animal kingdom.” They have been taught to use tools and were found to retain hundreds of objects or images in their memory! Knowing this, the pharmaceutical industry in Australia employed pigeons trained to identify anomalies in pills on a moving conveyor. The birds did outstanding work, but authorities soon ended the practice, fearing backlash from the perception that pigeons were more efficient workers than people. And, of course, they would work for chicken feed!
Did you know there was a prophet in the Bible whose name was pigeon? Jonah’s name means “dove” or “pigeon.” Unlike the faithful homing pigeons, Jonah tried to flee from duty. God mercifully spared his life, and Jonah went on to preach God’s message of warning, which saved an entire city from destruction.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Jonah 1:1