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Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan ... And the World

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  125 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Why do we see pigeons as lowly urban pests and how did they become such common city dwellers? Courtney Humphries traces the natural history of the pigeon, recounting how these shy birds that once made their homes on the sparse cliffs of sea coasts came to dominate our urban public spaces. While detailing this evolution, Humphries introduces us to synanthropy: The concept t ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published August 12th 2008 by Smithsonian (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

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I have just finished the unique story about pigeons. This lighthearted study of this bird gives the reader a new way to look at the pigeon and how it has impacted our lives.
Ms Humphries gives us her own personal look as she expresses her study of these birds, while keeping it light, she fills us with knowledge and the unexpected look at the value of these birds. If you are looking for something strangely interesting, this could be the book to pick up and read.
I'm pretty sure that the title and cover image were put together by the publisher without much input from the author, because I thought the book was much more subtle and thought-provoking than you might guess from the "superdove" picture (but an easy and pleasurable read nonetheless). Humphries does a wonderful job of exploring our conceptions about invasive species, what being "wild" and "natural" really means, the wonder that is evolution, and a lot else, all though the lens of a creature that ...more
I liked this little book. The author interviews pigeon breeders, pigeon racers, behavioral scientists and pigeon enthusiasts to find out more about this once-domesticated but now feral creature that exists in our midst, yet is so easy to ignore. I liked how she juxtaposed the average urban dweller's apathy (or downright disgust) towards these birds with the clever existences they've carved out for themselves.

The most fascinating part I found was her description of how pigeons' focus and visual a
It's funny, but despite the title, the book never really mentions Manhattan in particular. It may just be a play on "the Muppets Take Manhattan" (2nd or 3rd muppet movie?).(Also, there was the Muppet named Bert who loved pigeons, but he gets no mention.)
Anyhow, I loved this book. It really looks at every aspect of these birds, and their close relationship with humans over the centuries. You'd think that a history of a bird would be boring, but au contraire! Skinner, a famous psychologist, who fo
I picked this book up and set it down dozens of times over the months it took me to get through it. I ran through "Rats" much faster. Why?

In short, "Rats" had a more compelling narrator, if only in his neurotic stalking of the four-legged vermin. "Superdove" isn't exactly a scholarly work -- its author, Courtney Humphries, is clearly aiming for a mass audience -- but what she crafts is ultimately less a narrative about, and more a study of, the bird city-dwellers love to hate. The "Rats" author
Elaine Nelson
This was book was rad! It's been about a month since I read it, so some of the details are fuzzy, but it was totally enjoyable. Read it on the plane/in the airport, and my biggest complaint is that it's so quick & short that I ended up having to buy a book for my return trip. (I read both this and the Ida Tarbell book on the trip out.)

Covers the pigeon as a historical, scientific, and cultural phenomenon, including both pigeon fanciers (like Darwin!) and pigeon mothers (people who feed urban
I really enjoyed this book. It was quirky, funny, and covered many different facets of what it means to be a pigeon and what that relationship means to human beings.
I learned about how Pigeon messaging actually works and the sort of... strange sense of nobility the bird once held in role. As well as their role with humans when they were considered a source of food and were domesticated as such in juxtaposition to how pigeons are viewed today on the street. I didn't realize pigeons have such a r
Sara Gray
This is my favorite kind of popular scientific/nature writing! I learned so much about these unfairly maligned birds, and Humphries writes with a pleasing mixture of intelligence and accessibility. Really, pigeons stand out as a true superhero of nature, one of the few creatures of this earth who is neither wild or domesticated, but a strange and wonderful amalgamation of both. Truly, I think the reason why we dislike ubiquitous, hardy city species such as doves (and their mammal counterparts, r ...more
This book was well-written and interesting to read. I can only recall one chapter that I found to be a little dry, but I think that's based on my own biases. I would never consider myself to be a 'pigeon person,' but I love seeing them around the city, and it was really great to learn more about where they came from and how they live. I totally recommend this book to folks who are interested in the quirkier aspects of nature/city life.
An interesting account of the "natural" history of a most unnatural bird, the feral rockdove. For obvious reasons, it's been compared to "Rats," but both subjects and books are different. She puts together some of the natural history, the artificial history, and current research, as well as some personal observations. Given their ubiquity in urban environments, it was entertaining to learn about them.
Kevin McAllister
Superdove was a very enjoyable read. What made it so was the passion Courtney Humphries brought to the subject. No matter where her research took place, be it a library, the alley ways of Boston & New York, a small town in Switzerland, the cliffs of Sardinia where "true" wild pigeons still fly free, or a fancy restaurant where she tried the squab, her passion made each new adventure a pleasure to read.
I picked up this book because I thought the title was that good. Also, I have a thing for birds. I look at them. A lot. I think about them a lot. And now I have begun to read about them a lot.

I've never taken the trouble to kind of analyze this interest, but I'm glad it leads me to things like cultural histories of pigeons.
Brea Jones
maybe i'm spoiled when it comes to non-fiction but i just didn't get a lot out of this book. and i LOVE these kinds of books - focusing on one subject very closely.

i think i was little turned off when the author poked fun at the people trying to "save" the pigeons in the city. it just made me sad.
Feb 17, 2009 Sue rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: nature
Courtney is a wonderful writer. I now appreciate pigeons :)
The part about how Darwin incorporated pigeons into his research, I found especially interesting. It gave me a glimpse into who Darwin was as a person. Perfect for his 200th birthday on Feb 12, 2009.
As the pigeons biggest fan, I was unable to finish reading this book. About 50 pages into it I became outrageously bored. It is written as a college essay with little to maintain the reader's interest, even when said reader wants to know everything about pigeons.
This book was enlightening and echoed a lot of facts and concerns about pigeons that I have recently been studying. It was easy to read, but it did take me a while to get through. I enjoy the authors mostly neutral stance, and her laid back writing style.
I had no idea there was this much to learn about the ubiquitous pigeon...this book is an easy, informative read, and it will likely spark plenty of the meaningless bar conversations i will strike up in the future.
I enjoyed this book, I learned a few more things about my fine feathered neighbors (especially their mad quality control skillz!), but I kinda wished the tone wasn't quite so dry.
If you want to know more about pigeons I would recommend reading Andrew Blechman's book "Pigeons" over "Superdove".
Jason Barnhart
Lots of fun and pretty informative. Who doesn't need to know about the world right in front of them?
of course i would like this book.
Interesting. Easy to read. 5
Apr 03, 2010 Matt is currently reading it
Just started. Enjoying it. Never thought I would be so interested in pigeons.
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Courtney Humphries is a freelance journalist and author who writes about ideas and developments in science, health, and culture for publications such as the Boston Globe, Technology Review, New Scientist, Nature, Science, Wired, and Harvard Magazine. She's the author of Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan….And the World, a natural history of pigeons published by Smithsonian Books.
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