E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
To cheat, to gull one of his money by almost self-evident hoaxes. Pigeons are very easily gulled, caught by snares, or scared by malkins. One easily gulled is called a pigeon. The French pigeon means a dupe.
Je me deffieroy tantost que tu serois un de ceux qui ne se laissent si facilement pigeonner à telles gens.Les Dialogues de Jacques Tahureau, (1585).
Flying the pigeons. Stealing coals from a cart or sack between the coaldealers yard and the house of the customer.
Flying the blue pigeon. Stealing the lead from off the roofs of churches or buildings of any kind.
To pigeon a person is to cheat him clandestinely. A gullible person is called a pigeon, and in the sporting world sharps and flats are called rooks and pigeons. The brigands of Spain used to be called palomos (pigeons); and in French argot a dupe is called pechon, or peschon de ruby; where pechon or peschon is the Italian piccione (a pigeon), and de ruby is a pun on dérobé, bamboozled.
To pluck a pigeon. To cheat a gullible person of his money. To fleece a greenhorn. (See GREENHORN.)
Here comes a nice pigeon to pluck, said one of the thieves.C. Reade.