How pigeons came to love New York City

The lowly street pigeon is a common (and lets face it, often despised) creature here in the city. But they’re not lowly, and they aren’t even New York natives.

These hardy birds are also called Rock Doves, originally found on the cliffs of the Mediterranean. European aristocrats bred them for hunting and eating.

In the 17th century, colonists bound for New Amsterdam brought along domesticated rock doves, where they were destined for dinner plates.

Soon some captive Rock Doves escaped, and as the city developed, these gregarious birds took to the parks, statues, fire escapes, and skyscrapers New York offered.

Over the years, the city has tried everything to reduce their numbers: poison, traps, even avian birth control pills.

Perhaps the one thing that will work is an increase in the falcon population. “It’s been estimated that these predatory birds remove 200 pigeons from city streets each week,” states Wild New York, by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson.

[Photo: a city pigeon takes it all in from the top of the Empire State Building]

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6 Responses to “How pigeons came to love New York City”

  1. Joly MacFie Says:

    It may be subjective, but it does seem to me there a lot less pidge.. uh, rock doves, around these days. Last year I saw very few, this year there seem to be a few more.

    Of course, Ed Koch famously referred to them as “rats with wings”.

  2. Bryan Says:

    Just saw this photo in today’s Times, made me appreciate the damn birds:

    And of course, the pigeon never enjoyed more prestige in NYC than in the early 1970s:

    • wildnewyork Says:

      Wow, the Sesame Street folks really gave Bert a lot of creative latitude in the early 1970s, didn’t they?

      That first photo is spooky cool.

  3. How pigeons came to love New York City | New York Blogs Says:

    […] […]

  4. The escapee jackrabbits of JFK airport « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Like pigeons and sparrows, they’re not native New Yorkers. They’re the progeny of fugitive rabbits native to the U.S. West from a shipment that arrived at JFK about 50 years ago. […]

  5. Human Says:

    How can you hate those lovely creatures.

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