The pigeons showed up first. Several landed on the roof of the house to check out the yard. Then a few purple and black hued ones landed on the ground at the birdfeeder. They made no sound, just strutting around the pole, heads bobbing back and forth, and ignoring each other.

Our town is normally populated by shore birds like gulls, ospreys, cormorants, ducks, geese, and an occasional heron. The arrival of pigeons in Tenants Harbor became a sudden and unwelcome sight, and disgust became palpable among those who were now roof hosts to the new tenants around the harbor.

Speaking of roofs, the shingles on our garage and attached shed were shredded and curled. They were barely functional and ugly, and needed to be replaced.

Last summer, I contacted a roofing company and the crew showed up the day and time they said they would. Two trucks arrived, and the workers leapt out quietly. There were five men, one woman, and the boss. The supervisor, a man perhaps in his early thirties, told me later that the workers were from South America.

“These folks are real workers. They show up on time, work hard all day, and show up again the next day. It’s been tough finding locals today who either aren’t already working or they find this job too tough,” the supervisor said.

I knew virtually nothing about the lives of pigeons, other than having seen homeless people — with their grocery carts full of tattered belongings — befriending them. They shared their meager foodstuff as the pigeons sweetly coo. I know of various clichés and jokes that make pigeons sound like dodo birds. I mean, what the heck is pigeon-toed?

The poor pigeons had quite a reputation. Now I had a front-row seat to study them at our birdfeeder, to see their loonyness up close — I had the time because I couldn’t get rid of them.

I threw small pieces of gravel at the metal baffle on the bird feeder pole to elicit a loud clang. Even if I missed, the action of my arm spooked the little darlings to jump up, flap their wings with enough fury to sound like distant thunder, and take the same route up and away.

They always returned, though, perhaps thinking I would feed them like their cousins in some urban park. Fat chance. I left that to the goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, and cardinals when they dropped their seeds on the bobbing heads.

Sometimes a pigeon would fly in and do a spot landing among the existing flock, but be chased out of the inner circle like a drunk uncle who showed up uninvited to a Thanksgiving dinner.

“What are those two doing?” my wife asked once, pointing to two pigeons outside the circle who seemed to be engaged in marital discord.

“I think the one in the back is a he, and the one in front is a she who is having nothing to do with the he putting his dirty claws on her back and trying to climb aboard.”

“You go girl!” my wife yelled.

The roofers were efficient; the men were either tearing off the old roof shingles, nailing on new ones, or hefting bundles of shingles weighing hundreds of pounds up a ladder. The woman, about thirty years old, picked up and raked the shards of the old roofing that had fallen on the blue tarps and green grass. While a friendly and smiling lot, they were standoffish and said very little I understood.

“How is it going? Is it real hot up there?” I stupidly asked one of the sweating men climbing down the ladder.

“We are fine, sir, we are good. Thank you, sir,” he said with a quick smile as he went for another bundle of shingles.

The pigeons are quiet. I hardly ever hear them coo, unless they were on our roof waiting to launch for a sortie to the bird feeder. They are not mean. I never saw them attack any other species of birds that might also try to search the ground for seeds. Even the squirrels and chipmunks seem comfortable parallel playing around them.

But there are those who harbor ill will against the pigeons. While I sat quietly on our deck a week ago, a fox slunk up within ten feet from the bird feeder. The pigeons must have sensed it because, being sensitive to the animosity of others, they had minutes earlier headed northeast toward Rockland.

We gave each of the roofers a tip. They said a friendly gracias. We liked them the little that we interacted. They were quiet, communicated what they needed between themselves and kept their distance from the customer. Unlike pigeons, they did not coo while on the roof. Instead, they grunted and sweated and worked hard in the radiant heat.

I worry, though, the South American roofers have to have their senses attuned to their own “foxes,” much like the pigeons do. Unfortunately, they are not four-legged. Rather, they are two-legged ones likely wearing three-piece suits in state houses — the politicians who worry about immigrants taking work away from Americans who don’t want those jobs anyway.

As I watched the pigeons search for seeds and not bother any other living being, I came to appreciate them, kind of. They went from looking like complete dodos to being simple birds who were hungry and peacefully foraged for their food. I slowly changed my perspective as I observed and better understood them.

However, all bets will be off if I find their dumplings on my truck.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.

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