What a double-edged sword it is to be the default example for something – and what is Pidgey if not the default, common bird of the Pokémon world. It’s ostensibly based on a pigeon (which this Pokémon has cursed me to forever mis-spell as “pidgeon”), but really this thing has more in common with sparrows – especially its color pattern, the black mark around the eyes, and even the crests on its head and chest. She’s got elements of a ton of common city birds, though, from chickadees and wrens down to shrikes, titmouses (titmice?) and finches. She’s kind of a melting pot of a half-dozen things from the ol’ backyard birdfeeder, which is to say solid, but nothing in particular that stands out.
Pidgeotto: just like Pidgey, but bigger and more flamboyant. She’s got a bit more of a bird-of-prey vibe, with the serrated tail and even her head-feathers being rough and angled despite being also curved somehow? Quick detour, they’re really doubling down on mis-attributing this design, since it’s literally named Pigeon in Japanese. Ugh. Anyway, it’s a sharper Pidgey, and that’s about it.
Pidgeot is actually a bit more elegant and less of a peck-you-in-the-eye-looking sucker compared to Pidgeotto. Maybe dropping the last syllable of the name indicates that she’s not trying so hard to impress. She’s still mostly a bigger Pidgey, but the flowing head-crest, smoothed-out body, and more uniform tail makes her look properly mature. It’s a nice conclusion, if not a particularly exciting one.
In the games, she’s pretty all right as an early-game monster for being probably the first thing you’ll ever catch – except for that pesky weakness to the first gym type in the game, where she’s one of your few team options and which would be her prime time to shine. She doesn’t do much particularly interesting, anyway – she’s alarmingly straightforward and only slightly on the defensive side, so she’s mostly useful if you’re only interested in the “attack everything directly” method of play, which will honestly be a pretty fair number of folks.
She’s one of the more common ones to see around promo materials, though. Pidgey is pretty much the go-to character that they’ll use to show off the process of capturing a Pokémon, or if they need something inoffensive to fill out a skyline with. It’s not the most glamorous, she’s always up there, putting in the work. Good for you, Pidgey.
As noted, none of these are really pigeons, but more amalgamations of common birds and eventually ospreys. I’m sure that’s messing up some kids’ poor, under-informed understanding of ornithology. The only hint the game has at a real relation (besides the name) is exactly two references in the entire series to it having the uncanny ability to “find its home”, i.e. behave like a homing pigeon, but that’s not exactly core to her identity.
There also might be something to the idea of Pidgeotto’s design being on-the-nose with regard to its behavior – almost every entry in the various Pokédexes suggests that Pidgeotto is an aggressive, territorial predator, but all the entries for Pidgeot read more like “It’s very fast and very pretty, innit?”. The result feels like more of an evolution from a scrappy kid to a punk teen, then to a more mellowed-out adult, which is a nice alternate take on the evolution idea.
But other than that… for how often she shows up, there’s not a lot to be said about Pidgey and her ilk. There are dozens of more interesting birds – even common ones – in the series, and there’s even one that’s actually, properly based on a pigeon, could you believe it? It would be a pretty easy decision to Retire this design if she wasn’t just everywhere in the series, but she’s mostly hanging on by her legacy if we’re being honest, which has her hanging out in the Reserve pool for old times’ sake.
Any and all appreciation for Pidgey, Pidgeotto, and Pidgeot is welcome in the comments!