16: Two pigeons

by Jane Carnall

Today I saw two pigeons mating. I wasn't absolutely sure that was what they were going to do, at first: I was walking along the path by the river, and just at the top of the steps by the bridge, I saw these two pigeons, walking round each other, one pecking at the other's beak, and, as I was interested and not in a hurry (it is a very luxurious feeling not to be in a hurry) I sat down on the steps and watched.

Assuming that they were a heterosexual couple of pigeons, it was the female who was pecking at the male's beak, apparently trying to attract his attention.They were shuffling round each other, and once -- I think -- he pecked back. He stretched his neck and ruffled his feathers somewhat, but didn't appear so terribly interested. Once she almost squatted, but not quite: it was as if she were trying to make sure that he was paying attention before she got down.

Then he was: and she did. She settled on the sunwarm brick as if into a nest. (I was wearing shorts: it was very warm. There were people behind me, I heard them talking, and I was faintly embarrassed to be sitting so obviously interested in pigeon sex: but I had never seen two pigeons mating before, and I was not going to be embarrassed out of it.) He climbed on top of her, and I had just time to think: how do they fuck? don't her tailfeathers get in his way?) when he stepped off again, as if he had just lost his balance. But she didn't get up, and after a moment he was back on her again, this time raising his wings and flapping them to keep his balance, his head up. It looked quite energetic.

It didn't last long. He finished and stepped off her again and she got up. Perhaps they startied the circling, shuffling, beak-pecking dance again, but I felt I had watched for long enough to satisfy my interest, and I stood up and walked on. I think I remembered to apologise to them for intruding on their privacy as I passed.

So that's how pigeons do it. Fast: and the male has trouble keeping his balance.

They say that no female mammal except for humans experiences orgasm. (I cannot recall any comment about whether or not birds, male or female, have orgasms.) Certainly neither pigeon appeared to be having a particularly ecstatic experience: but of the two, the one who was getting fucked (and it is a guess that the bird was female: I can't tell one pigeon from another) appeared to be more interested and more active than the one who was doing the fucking (again, only my guess that it was a male pigeon). And presumably there is some reward-mechanism. I want this to happen because I know if it does I will feel good.

Chickens, who cannot be much brighter than pigeons (and are probably, since they are thoroughly domesticated, more stupid) are perfectly capable of learning to peck for a reward. Are they not then capable of learning to do sex for the reward, the lollypop, of orgasm? And since - it appeared - the female wanted it more than the male, does the female then have a stronger orgasm than the male?

Certainly no one will ever be able to interview a pigeon.

568 words, 16 minutes.

29th July 2000

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