Pigeons/Friend or Fowl (Pun Intended!)

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Birds (Pigeons), Ornithology,  Endangered Species, Extinction

Language Arts – Nonfiction, Reading For Information

Social Studies – History (WWI And WWII Carrier Pigeons)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso, Duke Riley, Rachel Berwick, John Beck, John James Audubon

Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Installations, Casting, One Point Perspective

For pigeons, there seem to be a lot of haters out there. Some haters may even think pigeons capable of  this. Hate might be a strong word, but until a recent turn of events, I was one such hater. Let’s just say, I refrain from feeding pigeons or sea gulls and don’t appreciate people who do. I am always fearful of being  (for lack of a better phrase) “pooped on”. The first turn of event was a visit to a MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) Store, where I found a book entitled, The Real Poop On Pigeons by Kevin McCloskey. It’s a toon book, a cartoon book that imparts information in an amusing way. I shared the book with my daughter (a lover of all “poop” jokes).  We enjoyed the book thoroughly, but couldn’t think of anyone else to share it with, so we grudgingly put it back on the shelf. I didn’t think much more about it until yesterday while watching CBS’s Sunday Morning Magazine. In this feature, artist, Duke Riley, was talking about his love for pigeons and all the ways he incorporates them into his artwork. So, that was it. I now appreciated the pigeon and decided that I needed to share my new found knowledge with all of you. 

First, let’s get into the mood by watching the Feed The Birds video from Mary Poppins.

Next, let’s get back to McCloskey’s book. If the “Poop” word is a problem, simply write “Info” on a post it and cover it up. The book is really quite good and imparts a lot of good information for a science unit. It would be a shame to eliminate it because of one word. Kevin includes a chart with bird parts. He shows many different kinds of pigeons. The author also includes some sample pages from the book and a reading for information lesson plan download on his  website. You can read about the inspiration for Kevin’s book here. In the book, McCloskey also talks about artist, Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s relationship with pigeons dates all the way back to his childhood. Read all about the history of Picasso’s interest in pigeons/doves and see examples of his drawings/paintings inspired by them here. There’s also a story floating around out there. It claims that once Picasso’s father saw how well his young son painted a pigeon image, he put down his paint brushes and vowed to never paint again. Picasso even named his daughter, Paloma, after pigeons. Paloma is Spanish for pigeon/dove. If you’d like to learn more about pigeons and see photos of Claude Monet and John F. Kennedy posing with them check out this post.

Audubon's Passenger Pigeons

John James Audubon’s “Passenger Pigeons”

Now, let’s move onto Duke Riley and some other pigeon loving modern artists. As I just talked about in my last post, The Wonder of Nature and Modern Art, contemporary artists often bring the dimension of social consciousness to their works. Riley is trying to bring an appreciation for the pigeon to the world through his art. In a 2014 Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibit entitled “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art”, two artists showcased extinct birds from the pigeon family. Rachel Berwick’s “Zugunrue”, tells the story of the passenger pigeon. View the artist talking about this installation here.  I can’t imagine a three day bird cloud overhead. Also, she cast the pigeons in amber.  All you Jurassic Park fans will remember the amber topped walking stick containing that mosquito, the one that held dinosaur DNA. Thank you John James Audubon for painting an image of the passenger pigeon, so people of today can know what it looked like.  John Beck created several pieces in homage to the dodo bird.  According to McCloskey’s book, the dodo came from the same bird family as the pigeon. To learn more about the dodo bird’s evolution and extinction look here. These artist’s names would make a nice addition to your endangered species science unit.

For the most part, the pigeon species has faired well in the “survival of the fittest” category. We find them in places all over the world. As seen above, Picasso included pigeons in his painting of the view out his Cannes’ window. Students could create their own abstract, out the window themed, collage like in this lesson. The outside scene could be a place students have seen pigeons or a place they have just learned pigeons live. Another art idea is to have the students design their own extinct animal museum. Students choose an extinct animal to research. Using information they learned and one of  these templates, students design their own John Beck-like museum inside and out. If you are really ambitious or your art teacher wanted to help out, you could include one point perspective for the interior, as is used in this lesson and this lesson.

I realize that some of the themes in my posts are sort of out of the box. This one is probably  at the top of the list. However, after learning more about pigeons, how do you feel about them? Several artists are routing for them. After learning more about the pigeon, your students may too.

Stop by again real soon!



  1. illustrationclass · July 1, 2016

    Reblogged this on Illustration Concentration and commented:
    I’m not the only one thinking about pigeons and art. I found this teacher’s art blog that touches on Duke Riley’s “Fly by Night” and my “Real Poop on Pigeons.”


    • criscophebes · July 1, 2016

      Glad to help the cause!

      Liked by 1 person

    • criscophebes · July 1, 2016

      Loved “The Real Poop On Pigeons” so much, I decided to check out “We Dig Worms”.
      Love It! I’m going to buy it as a Christmas gift for a friends grandson who loves insects. I think he’ll get a kick out of it. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Teaching Creativity | OH THE ART PLACES WE CAN GO

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