2021 Photo Contest, Nature, 1st Prize

Pandemic Pigeons—A Love Story


Jasper Doest

18 April, 2020

Dollie comes in to land on the balcony door, where she uses the higher vantage point to check out if the coast is clear before entering the kitchen, in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands.

A pair of feral pigeons befriended the photographer’s family, who were isolated in their apartment in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ollie and Dollie, as the family named them, were regulars in the house, their daily visits a reminder that humans are not alone on this planet, even while living isolated in urban areas. Feral pigeons (Columba livia domestica) are descended from the rock dove, which naturally inhabits sea cliffs and mountains. They find the ledges of buildings to be substitutes for sea cliffs, have adapted to urban life and surroundings, and now live in urban areas on every continent except Antarctica, with a global population in the hundreds of millions. Rock doves were the first birds to be domesticated, between five and six thousand years ago, in Mesopotamia. They were bred for food, and later trained to carry messages. Birds escaping or released from a domestic environment became the first feral (or city) pigeons. Although they are believed to be vectors of diseases, the evidence is to the contrary. It is rare for city pigeons to transmit a disease to humans, and while they do transmit contagions such as Salmonella and avian mites, infecting mammals is rare.

About the photographer

Jasper Doest

Jasper Doest is a Dutch photographer who creates visual stories that explore the relationship between humankind and nature.  As an ecology major Doest knows human life de...

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