Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice, author, entomologist, pigeon proponent

by | May 4, 2022

Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice—a North Carolina-based entomologist and author of books on ants and spiders, who, as the product of a family activity, has developed a passion for pigeons and attendant expertise—recounts the objectives propelling her to get a PhD, and noting why a career in academia was not the goal. Spicer Rice describes carving a different professional path, realizing that she could make her living writing about insects—she happens to be an extraordinary, eloquent writer—fulfilling an educational agenda from a different angle, spurred in part by frustrations over reading articles that glorified killing critters. She published “Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants,” a series, and “Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Spiders,” co-authored with Christopher Buddle.” And she’s set to publish two new books in 2023. Meanwhile, the lingering question may be: How did an entomologist become such a fervent pigeon enthusiast? Spicer Rice explains that it began five years ago, chiefly, as a family activity, when her eldest son was two, and she thought it might be fun and educational to round out the household fauna of dogs and hermit crabs with…homing pigeons. Fairly quickly, she (and apparently the rest of the family) became hooked on pigeons. Including raising, caring for, training, and observing these birds. The traits Spicer Rice says she finds most enchanting about pigeons include that they’re gentle, intelligent, and each bird clearly has its own personality. We touch on other topics, including how far and unerringly homing pigeons return to their home (she indicates the biggest known journey is a bird who traveled from France to Vietnam, some 7000 miles). Spicer Rice also fields an array of listener calls and emails, about everything from histoplasmosis (a fungal infection that can be carried in pigeon droppings), to some behaviors of mourning doves (in the same family as pigeons: Columbidae), to hornets (a caller reports stepping on an unseen nest, getting stung by seven hornets). (https://verdantword.com/, https://www.instagram.com/espicerrice/?hl=en) [Photo of Spicer Rice by Kate Medley]

ALSO: I spoke briefly with Karin Slifker, chief organizer of the Florida Wiener Dog Derby, which was slated to take place Saturday, May 7, at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Slifker recalls the history and evolution of the Derby, and highlights some of the many activities planned for the event, including the costume contest that kicks off the day and the races central to the titular competition, as well as offshoots. The Wiener Wanna-Be race is among those and, tongue-in-cheek, I asked how elastic the standards were to enter—could a Labrador Retriever compete? (No. A Wanna-Be can only weigh 35 pounds or fewer.) Slifker also notes that, as fun and colorful as much of the Florida Wiener Dog Derby is, the event is also strictly volunteer-powered—and serves as a fundraiser for two dachshund rescues. (https://www.floridawienerdogderby.com, https://www.facebook.com/floridawienerdogderby/, https://www.instagram.com/SPEED_WEENIES/)

COMEDY CORNER: Hannibal Buress’ “Pigeons Get Murked” (https://hannibalburess.com/)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’ “Spanish Flea’


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