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Doves and Pigeons

Doves and pigeons are very distant relations of the now extinct Dodos . Doves are usually smaller than pigeons but similar otherwise.They belong to a family of birds called Columbidae . They can be trained to carry messages and these pigeons are called “carrier” or “homing” pigeons. They were of great help during World War I and II when they were used to carry important messages. Soldiers woud take pigeons or doves with them, then when they wanted to send a message back they would write it on a very small piece of paper, usually in code in case it was captured by the enemy, then put it in a little cannister attached to the bird’s leg – the bird was then released. The bird would, quite naturally, fly all the way back to its home. When they landed in their coop that would trigger a buzzer or bell which would alert a soldier who worked in the Signal Corps who would then go and get the message from the tiny canister that was attached to the pigeon. It was a dangerous job and enemy soldiers would shoot at all pigeons and doves in case they carried such a message. There is a wonderful true story about a famous pigeon called Cher Ami who, despite being wounded, having lost a foot and an eye in an attack nevertheless managed to deliver her message which saved the lives of many American Infantrymen who had been surrounded. Some 32 pigeons were presented with an award known as the Dickin Medal, which was awarded to animals by the P.D.S.A for having shown “conspicuous gallantry” in helping the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units. Pigeons have also been used for carrying tiny unbreakable vials of medicines and even until the early ninteen eighties they used to fly between two hospitals, Plymouth General and Devonport. This only ceased when one of the hospitals closed down.