Episode available within Canada only.
Photo: iStock

As the first animal to be domesticated, pigeons have a story to tell. A drama filled, steeped-in-history, amazing story. Although they’ve faded into the background of city life, pigeons have made an incredible contribution to human history. For centuries, we relied on them for everything from food, to vital communications, to entertainment to modern day brain science. They deserve more respect!  

Pigeons just as they are released for a race from a city squarePigeons just as they are released for a race from a city square

The ones you see on city streets today are the descendants of domestic birds. Their gritty urban lives are spent trying to evade all manner of perils…and… stay one step ahead of starvation, a constant threat. To survive where they’re not wanted, pigeons rely on a combination of charity from a few and their own incredible smarts….

In a series of fascinating experiments and carefully placed cameras, we take you inside their perilous world; in the air, on the street and in the nest. One of the first things to notice is just how incredibly smart they are. We’ll demonstrate how pigeons can spot and remember faces, how they distribute themselves around the city so that each bird gets the same amount of food, how they manage to deftly avoid all manner of threats from hungry hawks to speeding cars….and also, how they’ve learned to navigate over great distances from places they’ve never been; one of the great mysteries of science. 

Read a review by tv critic John Doyle.

See an interview with director Scott Harper on Katie Chats. 

By placing the first ever HD camera onboard a pigeon, you’ll get an incredible, genuine bird’s eye view. We look in on the fascinating subculture of pigeon racing – a favourite pastime for royals, celebrities and working people all over the world. And we’ll enter the realm of the pigeon fancier, the breeders that create exotic and bizarre new strands in a tradition with roots in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.   

Despite their incredible gifts and their contribution to human history, pigeons that live in the city today are looked at primarily as a dirty nuisance. ‘Rats with wings’ as Woody Allen dubbed them. The Secret Life of Pigeons intends to set the record straight, casting these humble but amazing creatures in a whole new and beautiful light.

The Secret Life of Pigeons is directed, written and produced by Scott Harper and his company Sunday Night Entertainment and executive produced by Bob Culbert. It is produced in association with CBC, with assistance from  Canada Media Fund.

Credits (Click to expand)

written, produced and directed by
Scott Harper

executive producer
Robert Culbert


director of photography
Christopher McKay

Enzo Anile

original music
John Rowley

additional camera
Michael Ellis
Tim Sauder

wildlife cinematographer
Jonathan Watts

location sound recordists 
Bruce Cameron
Alain Letourneau
Ao Loo
Peter Sawade

Mark Alberts 

pigeon wrangler
Bruce Mathers

supervising producer
Nida Marji

visual researcher
Tanya Fleet

production coordinator
Elizabeth Hodgson

set designers
Jessica Poyton
Zac Ward

camera assistants
Marko Cigljarev
Kyle Woodley

assistant editor
Kevin Connelly


Vern Bingman, Bowling Green State University
Luc-Alain Giraldeau, University of Quebec
Dmitry Kishkinev, University of Guelph
Suzanne MacDonald, York University
Monica Côté
Omar Saer

post production coordinator
Brandon Tobia

online editor
David Hermiston
Drake Conrad

re-recording mixer
Dustin Harris

sound editors
Steve Blair
Jeremy Kessler

Nancy Yu

Danny Webber

production bookkeeper
Michelle Ferrari 

based on an idea by
Maeve Powis

special thanks

Dan Frankian
Carolyn Hall
Grant Jackson
Debbie Kelly
Brian Pogue
Clint Robertson
Tessa Singh
Bill Voulgaris

and to

Up North Racing Pigeon Combine (Ontario, Canada)  & its members
Bruce Mathers
Ron Hastie
Mario Rea
Tony Rea
Carlos Teixeira
Bill Bennie
Ken Foster
Ellen Sutton
Mike van der Jagt
The Humber Valley Racing Pigeon Club
Linda Cowan
Jim Jenner
stock footage and photographs courtesy of 
Album / Art Resource, NY
Animal Planet / Photofest
BBC Creative / Getty Images
B.F. Skinner Foundation
Critical Past
Division of Military History and Diplomacy / Archives Center,
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Eric Lessing / Art Resource, NY
Gianni Dagli Orti / The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY
iStock.com / ZU_09
iStock.com / ilbusca
iStock.com / zepperwing
Jonathan Watts / British Technical Films
Magnum Photos / Peter Marlow
Roy Harris Media on behalf of Content Mint : Absolutely Wild Visuals
SAMDPR footage courtesy of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race
SAMDPR Liberation footage produced by Black Envelope Films
SAMDPR Additional footage produced by Big Brave Digital
SAMDPR logo animation produced by Shine Interactiv
Topical Press Agency / Hulton Royals Collection / Getty Images


produced with the participation of

and with the assistance of

The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit


produced in association with

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

senior producer 
Caroline Underwood

executive producer
Sue Dando


produced by
Sunday Night Entertainment

© 2345469 Ontario Inc.  2014

for the nature of things

online editing
Adam Champ

associate director
Renée Moreau

unit production manager
June Hall
senior manager
Documentary Unit
Wilma Alexander

senior producers
Caroline Underwood
FM Morrison
for the nature of things

executive producer
Sue Dando

executive director
Documentary Programming
Mark Starowicz
The Nature of Things
with David Suzuki

produced by
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


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