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Savannah Bird Sanctuary: Birding, World War I and WWII Pigeons

SAVANNAH, Georgia (January 1, 2014) — Green Palm Inn bed and breakfast thought birding enthusiasts and bird watchers, particularly, would like to know that the City of Savannah is a bird sanctuary. (See Animal Ordinance below).

World War I and WWII story buffs might appreciate a reminder of the role of the messenger pigeons. There’s a New Year’s Day food twist here as well amid “pigeon” stories.

Bed and breakfast guests are likely to awake to the sounds of sweet birds singing year around.  The bird that often comes first to mind in Savannah is the pigeon — confident and cooing.

We invite you to bed down [or nest in] with us at Green Palm Inn. Rooms are far bigger than pigeon holes. :: smile ::  We hope you’ll enjoy this wink and a nod using history, heritage, and nature to talk about pigeons — our fine feathered friends of nature in Savannah.  We like them! Below are introductions to a couple of Savannah birding tours.

So, for the love of sharing fun tales, let’s talk pigeon for a few minutes.

** No, we don’t mean the “pigeon-talk or pigeon-English” — the combination of English, Portuguese, and Chinese, used in business transactions in “The Flowery Empire.” Example?  “The traders care nothing for the Chinese language, and are content to carry on their business transactions in a hideous jargon called “pigeon English.”—The Times. Source: Bartleby.com

Stroll or run in Forsyth Park and you’re likely to see locals and tourists with small bags of bread crumbs or bird seed, sharing with the pigeons, eager for a photo opportunity with the urban forest birds.

What about feeding the birds, especially in winter?

Audubon.org answers,”…if there is a bad snow or ice storm and natural food is buried for a period of time.  In that event, the seed you put out could be life-saving for some birds.  Some people choose to only feed in winter, but others feed year-round to attract them closer to enjoy them up close.”

Is the Pigeon a Dove?

The feral pigeons and the white dove are both “descended from the blue rock pigeon (Columba Livia), which is found in the wild everywhere in the world except at the polar icecaps”. Source: The Pigeon in History by Dr. Jean Hansel

During the Christmas season we hear and speak more admiringly about the dove, the symbol of peace. Usually, its depicted as a white dove, especially in biblical stories of Noah, recounting the important dove, sent to discover if the floods had receded. It ultimately returns with an olive tree twig to the ark.

Did you know? Today racing pigeons is a serious hobby. So is pigeon photography, as seen in beautiful photos by David Stephenson.  Have you seen the aerial photography recently that is being done by remote control camera? As early as 1901, pigeons were strapped with camera for pigeon photography.

Franco British carrier pigeon during WWI - Library of Scotland photo

Franco British carrier pigeons shuttled critical communications during World War I – Photo: National Library of Scotland

The Pigeon in History 

Dr. Jean Hansell writes, “No other bird has had such close links with man, nor been useful to him in so many ways. Over the centuries the pigeon has served him as symbol, sacrifice, source of food and, not least, as a messenger, both sacred and secular….” Source: The Pigeon in History

Certainly homing pigeons, used in World War I, World War II and the Gulf War, always knew how to fly home. Pigeon houses in France were torn down during World War I, because they were a sign of affluence.

Cber Ami is the most famous of World War I pigeons, inspiring June 13 annually as “International Pigeon Day”.  Cher Ami died of his multiple war wounds on June 13, 1919 — less than a year after he had completed his service to the United States Army Signal Corps.  Upon his death a taxidermist preserved the small pigeon for future generations, a bird with a story that became an inspiration to millions over the years. Today, visitors to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. can still see Cher Ami, preserved for history alongside the French Croix de Guerre with palm that was awarded to him by the French government.

Bird in Savannah ironwork West Taylor Street in downtown Savannah GA | Library of Congress photo

A pelican bird in Savannah ironwork at the home first occupied by Judge Robert M. Charlton (built 1853) on Monterey Square in downtown Savannah, Georgia USA.

Savannah birding tours are offered by Wilderness Southeast. Birding field trips (January and February 2014 trips below) are available via the Ogeechee Audubon Society in Savannah.

Saturday, January 18,  2014:
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge for ducks, sparrows, meadowlarks and more! Meet at the entrance to Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive at 8 AM. Leader Dot Bambach dotbam@bellsouth.net or call 912-604-2673.
Saturday, February 1, 2014:
Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island for marsh sparrows, shorebirds, raptors and more. Meet at Ft. Pulaski near bridge at 8:00 am. Leader Diana Churchill dichurchbirds@
gmail.com or 912-604-7539.
Saturday, February 8, 2014:
Harris Neck NWR for ducks, sparrows, winter birds. Meet at RideShare at I-95 & GA 204 at 7:15 am or at entrance to Harris Neck NWR at 8:00 am. Leader Steve Fox
sfox01@hotmail.com or 912-596-4685.
Friday, February 14 – Monday, February 17, 2014: 2014 Great Backwyard Bird Count. Get Ready, Get Set, COUNT. You can count the birds in your yard, neighborhood, nearby park or Refuge and enter the data at www.birdsource.org/gbbc

By copy here, we invite “Birding the American Civil War: Savannah to Charleston” 2016 tour, sponsored by WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, to stay with us and other romantic bed and breakfasts in Savannah during birding tours in Savannah, Georgia USA.

On November 2, 2013, someone submitted to Vox Populi in the Savannah Morning News this entry, in part: “Where have all Savannah’s pigeons gone? River Street, Forsyth Park and the squares downtown used to be full of pigeons….”

We at Green Palm Inn are looking for them too, as the weather warms. Let us know when you’re flying in or headed our way! Email greenpalminn@aol.com or telephone (912) 447-8901. Follow us on Twitter @GreenPalmInn.

Copyright © 2013 Green Palm Inn / Sandy Traub

City of Savannah, Animal Ordinance, Sec 9-5003. Protection Of Birds.
The entire area embraced within the corporate limits of the city is hereby designated as a bird sanctuary; and it shall be unlawful to trap, hunt, shoot or attempt to shoot or molest in any manner any bird or wild fowl or to rob bird nests or wild fowl nests in such sanctuary; provided, however, that if pigeons, starlings or similar birds are found to be congregating in such numbers in a particular locality that they constitute a nuisance or a menace to health or property in the opinion of the proper health authorities of the city, such health authorities shall meet with representatives of the Audubon Society, Bird Club, Garden Club or Humane Society, or as many of such clubs as are found to exist in the city, after having given at least three days actual notice of the time and place of such meeting to the representatives of the clubs. If, as a result of such meetings, no satisfactory alternative is found to abate such nuisance, then such birds may be destroyed in such numbers and in such manner as is deemed advisable by the health authorities, under the supervision of the police chief. (Code 1977, §9-5003)

P.S. Did you have your pigeon peas for New Years Day or Christmas?

Pigeon peas a southern food brought by African slaves
Pigeon peas eaten brought by African slaves into the southern food of the USA and the Caribbean | photo C. L. Ramjohn. Used under creative commons license.

“Pigeon Peas” for New Year’s Day or Christmas

In Barbados for Christmas they dine on Pigeon Peas (also Congo Peas) in a dish called ‘Doved’ Peas, similar to Hoppin’ John.

Like the pigeon peas, cow peas (aka black-eyed peas) are thought to have been introduced to America by African slaves who worked the rice plantations. Served on New Year’s Day in the American south, Hoppin’ John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork, rice, tomato sauce, and served with white rice.

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