As far as New York City residents go, few groups are hated more than pigeons (those guys with the clipboards on the street are a close second). They poop everywhere. They gather in large groups, then launch into the air without warning, flying just close enough to the heads of passerby to seriously freak those people out. As I type this, there’s a dead pigeon on the landing outside my window—a dead pigeon being possibly the only thing grosser than a live one.
In contrast to my support of geese, who seem to know their place around here, I really could care less about these flying rats. But in researching various ways to keep them away from my building (the courtyard is currently being used as a pigeon toilet), I found out some really interesting fun facts.
-Pigeons were originally cliff-dwelling birds… which is why they like the tall buildings of New York City so much. We basically built a pigeon playground, free from the traditional predators that munched on pigeons for snacks.
-After years of being useful as a method of communication (carrier pigeons, duh), it seems that the internet has made them pretty useless (sort of like encyclopedias). This explains why no pigeons have Facebook accounts.
But the biggest thing I learned:
The common misconception is that pigeons are sustained on scraps of food courtesy of people littering, or people sharing their lunchtime sandwich in the park or as a result of poor housekeeping on the part of fast food restaurants. This is incorrect, at least in part. A vast majority of pigeons are sustained, almost exclusively, by deliberate and persistent feeding on the part of a small number of individuals, normally elderly or single people. These people will go out every day, 7 days a week, to feed their friends and will normally not only feed extremely high quality food such as grain and corn but also very large quantities of it. In the city of Melbourne, Australia, one gentleman arrives in the city centre each day, from the suburbs where he lives, and brings in 40 kilos of prime pigeon food which he proceeds to distribute at 4 highly sensitive locations within the central business district of the city. As a result there is a city centre flock numbering many thousands of pigeons who exploit this food source each day. Based on the British Racing Pigeon Association figures, an adult pigeon can survive on 13 grams of seed each day and therefore, the 40 kilos of seed fed to pigeons in Melbourne city centre could, in reality, sustain over 3000 pigeons.
Wow. One old guy = 3000 pigeons!!! So how do we solve the problem? Send them all to Florida?
When I lived in Stuyvesant Town, there was an old Asian woman who would feed the pigeons at the back entrance of my building. And when I say “feed the pigeons,” I mean prepare the sort of food orgy that Romans had back during the height of their empire, when they’d have to vomit in-between courses. She didn’t just attract a few pigeons. I think it’s safe to say the entire East Village pigeon community was lining up. She was basically Shake Shack for birds. She also had one of those rolling carts old people have, and it was lined with newspaper in the bottom. There was a pigeon in there, eating seed. I am 100% sure she brought this pigeon home with her.
One day, she noticed I was a bit annoyed at having to leap over the dozens of pigeons sitting on the back stairs of my building. She smiled at me and said:
“This is my only pleasure in life.”
I cried inside, for sure. How could I possibly hate on that? So rather than ship all the geezers out, it’s clear what has to be done.
Visit Grandpa and Grandma for goodness sakes. Make them happy. Take them out for dinner a few times a month. Get them involved with charity work or give them a membership to the Y. Don’t just let them rot until the day you can take over their rent-controlled New York City apartment. Come on people! Let’s show the old folks there’s more to life in the golden years than sustaining a population of cooing, flying, pooping lumps of garbage.
After all, that bird seed costs money. Those pigeons are eating your inheritance.