Protective Coloration


        The areas along the sides of the freeways across northern Utah are covered in untold acres of golden colored crested wheat grass. Full clusters of seed hang from the top of each stem. This yellow wheat grass is growing up through a thick dark mat of downed stocks from previous years growth, which is laying on the ground. The grays of the downed wheat stocks blend perfectly with the dark color of the asphalt on the freeway and the on-ramps.

        We made a trip to Salt Lake City and stopped at the Valley Fair Mall just as the sky was darkening. The sky was full of wheeling birds that were dropping like chucks of coal down to the grass next to the freeway. But why? The mall parking lot was about 200 feet from the birds, so we looked to find out what kind of bird it was. Wow! They were Pigeons!

        The following morning, with the use of binoculars, we saw hundreds of pigeons feeding and flying along the sides of the freeway. The pigeons were dark, with multiple shades of gray, black, blue, amber, rust and purple. Their colors were a perfect camouflage when they dropped through the golden wheat grass onto the gray mat of stocks. Pigeon fanciers have bred their birds for centuries to have bright flashy light colors, but all of these wild birds were dark. Brightly colored pigeons are easily seen and picked off by predators, while dark colored pigeons blend into their surroundings. We marveled that the wild pigeons changed their color to match the feeding areas and become survivors. As we traveled, we noted that each time we went under a freeway overpass, where the wheat grass was plentiful, there were lots of pigeons.

        As you travel, take in all the wonderful ‘things’ around you. If you find Pigeons, remember this: Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet. They can recognize all 26 letters of the English language, and are able to conceptualize. Young Pigeons do not fledge until two months, leaving the nest as a mature juvenile. All Pigeons have the ability to return to their roost. They use roads and freeways to navigate. They use the earth’s magnetic field, visual landmarks, the sun, and even infra sounds to navigate. Pigeon ‘poop’ was a prized fertilizer in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century in Europe. So prized that armed guards were placed by the pigeon houses to stop thieves stealing it. Pigeons have lived alongside man dating back to 3,000 BC, and I hope they will continue to.

        The Artist this week is Keith Davis. If you have questions about Pigeons, Red Cliffs Audubon Opening Pot Luck Social on September 8th, at 6:00 pm., or the September 11th Field Trip to Clear Lake, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996. Public is welcome.


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