Walk up the steps of Merida’s main square (zocalo, plaza grande), built on a former Maya terrace, and in the center is a raised platform within a concrete circle. In early mornings and throughout the day, this concrete pad transforms into a theater in the round. Audience members can sit on park benches or in the white confidentes (s-shaped, side-by-side chairs) to watch the performances. Many courtship attempts occur on this stage of love. Performers strut, dance, bow, and sing softly.
Welcome to a glimpse into the world of the Rock Pigeon, commonly called pigeon.
As a male approaches a female, he “bows”, puffs out his neck, coos, and dances in a circle in front of her. He high steps, stands further erect, and repeats the bowing, cooing, and “main square” dance. Sometimes he follows the female in a behavior labeled “driving.” Also he may fan out his tail and chase her with the “tail drag” along the ground. I’d call it a drag race. I’ve noticed if the male’s advances are not received, he stops, returns to a normal stance, and immediately preens his feathers. Soon he’s off on another quest.
By mid-morning, many pigeons leave the concrete circle to lounge or rest on lamp posts, trees, buildings, utility lines, or on the ground. In nearby grassy areas, each bird may sit or lean to one side to sunbathe. Each pigeon may preen or rest for a few minutes until an amorous male attempts his “come on”.
People and kids offer a variety of grains or junk food to the flock. Pigeons fly in from several directions to compete for the meal. The feathered cluster lures kids to chase them, but pigeons tolerate people’s presence.
Iridescent green and dark fuscia feathers adorn the males more than the females. Pigeon plumage can vary from black to white and all have pink feet. Adults sport orange eyes.
Pigeons get a bad rap when they foul city buildings, statues, and sidewalks. However, pigeons have received medals of honor during world wars as winged messengers. Stay tuned for Part 2 next month for pigeon contributions to society and details of amazing adaptations.
Sound link: http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/135942
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Nature’s wonders inspire Cherie Pittillo, a wildlife photographer, zoologist, and author. Follow her friendly, feathered journey as she discovers the birds of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Editorial and Photography by Cherie Pittillo for use in Yucatán Today
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