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July 03, 2008

Pigeons property of New York State

Pigeons are property of New York State, and we are legally required to put up with them:

Pigeons may be reviled by many and adored by a few. Love them or hate them, those plump gray and white cooing birds are considered property of the state, and it is illegal to harm them.

Thus pigeon-napping is considered a crime (though giving them birth control is not). Two months ago, a formerly homeless street sweeper tipped off law enforcement officials about a pigeon poacher, Isaac Gonzalez, who was spreading vast amounts of seed on the Upper East Side.

Mr. Gonzalez was convicted last week in Criminal Court in Manhattan, and the street sweeper, Desi Stewart, is poised to receive a $2,500 reward offered by an animal advocacy group, In Defense of Animals.

Pigeon poaching has become a big New York problem, as pigeons are netted and taken over the state border to be used for sport and food. In Defense of Animals says it has received more calls about pigeon poaching than any other issue. [NYT]

If we were to divide through the number of New Yorkers by the number of pigeons, I wonder how many flying rats each of us would own.


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ack. Someone's eating NYC pigeons?

I suspect they'd be safer if they ate the rats.

Does that mean that Tom Lehrer is a fugitive from justice? Oh no!

If pigeons are rats with wings, what are seagulls?

I'm firmly in the anti-pigeon camp myself, though I go old school.

Let's get some falcons in the city, lots and lots of them.

We have falcons, hawks too, and they do a nice job. Yes, we could do with more of them.

Re: falcons and pigeons. After DDT had very nearly driven peregrine falcons to extinction they’re beginning to make a recovery. Urban peregrines and urban pigeons (Columbia livia) make a nice combination. Both naturally nest on cliffs for which buildings and bridges and the like make a good substitute. The falcons need a clean food source, and urban pigeons which live largely on discarded, but USDA approved, human chow, provide an ideal, relatively contaminant-free diet. Consequently urban Peregrine falcons are doing pretty well lately. It’s not all sweetness and joy though, falcons are predators and have been observed catching migrating birds confused by city lights at night around the empire state building. Sadly, migratory birds that traverse countries where DDT is still used can pose a threat to peregrines, which is why cities with their clean pigeons may provide better refugia for the falcons than rural areas.

I recently met a guy whose job is to harass gulls eating migrating juvenile salmon around hydroelectric dams and to trap pigeons that crap on the same dams. He makes sandwiches from the breasts of the pigeons he traps. Here’s the crazy part: As a kid he kept pigeons and one day he saw a couple fancy ones sitting on a power line. He climbed up onto a roof where he could grab one of the pigeons, almost but not quite did so, and was electrocuted. He lost a hand and all the toes on one foot. The doctors said that smacking the ground after falling some twenty or so feet probably restarted his heart. The pigeons got away unharmed.

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