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Researchers: Pigeons Can Help Alert Humans To Environmental Dangers

DAVIS (CBS13) – For a lot of people, pigeons are nothing more than rats with wings, nothing more than dirty birds, but a UC Davis professor has done the research and they could actually be very helpful.

"It's not just a pest, it's not a rat with wings, but potentially a very vital sentinel that can alert us to dangers in our environment," said Professor Rebecca Calisi with UC Davis.

RELATED: UC Davis Study Finds Pigeons Can Spot Cancer Nearly At Same Level As Human Doctors

Calisi spearheaded a study in New York City and found high levels of lead in pigeons living in some neighborhoods.

"High levels of lead can actually be fatal," she said.

Because pigeons walk among us, eat the same things, and live and die in the same neighborhood, they can reflect toxins in our area.

"In essence, the pigeon might be able to speak for certain communities that are socioeconomically challenged or underserved," added Calisi.

A research team at UC Davis is taking the science and seeing how pollutants in Northern California are affecting us.

"We would say now the pigeon is the proverbial canary in a coal mine because if something is affecting the pigeon and its health, then I could be telling us how that environment could be affecting our own health," she said.

This research will be used not just here in Sacramento, but around UC Davis, San Joaquin County and even the Bay Area. Researchers will focus on pollutants such as harmful heavy metals, pesticides, and fire retardant.

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