pigeon papers

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Location: Brooklyn, NY, United States

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


My personal story; /jc
TRUTH BE TOLD, I'd never really thought twice about pigeons. My mother hated them, calling them "rats with wings." But one day, about three years ago, I happened to notice an abandoned white baby pigeon crouched, wounded, terrified -- in the underbrush of my local church.

I took it home. The bird was already too far gone. Once home -- it struggled maddeningly, flapped its wings with all its might and died. It wanted so desperately to fly.

It seemed to me that was everything. That was the sum total of all of our collective striving. Noble and heartbreaking and pretty much doomed.

I cried the night long. For the bird and for myself.

The words from TS Eliot’s poem came back to me,

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
not with a bang, but a whimper

I am acutely aware of these amazing little birds and their relentless struggle just to exist. To get up in the morning and to have a little nourishment; to flirt; to preen; to bask in the sun; to do a little mating dance; to fly and coo and just be free.

But NYC is pigeon destruction-central.

Pigeons are loathed and despised -- at worst & tolerated at best.

So often -- as they try to navigate the sea of feet, pursuing just one small scrap just as another foot comes trouncing on their head. And so it goes, on and on and on; their relentless and ridiculously humble struggle.

Just watch what happens in the walkways that feed into Penn Station. Hard-pounding construction boots, high heels, and shoes of every kind come in stampedes, unrelenting. But so what -- a baby sparrow here gets its wing torn off; a fledgling pigeon there -- gets plowed over by a fast moving dolly.

This is a city that yields right of way to no one.

Too bad for them. They shouldn't be here. This is NYC. It's not our problem. They don't belong here.

So what if a thoughtless pretzel vendor accidentally runs one over here and one over there. So what if an oblivious secretary rushes for her train at Penn Station and impales the wing of some small bird she didn't notice and didn't care. So what that there are no city-sanctioned safety standards for birds in parks. No netting to keep them out of harm's way; no signs even that read:

Please do not step on the baby pigeons and sparrows.

If they are unlucky enough to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, here comes the boot that will cripple them for life.

This is New York, not an Audubon Aviary.

* * *


The Bloomberg ticketing blitz (see the post on this blog of the same title) for feeding pigeons has drastically impacted their basic survival. Few natural sources of food exist -- nor have they ever existed -- for these birds. Their only source of food are grains -- not insects -- and in the "old days" it was primarily sweeping the streets of horse manure. Then the inter-dependence between food either left by mistake or offered intentionally -- has been the norm. But not now. Now they are unbelievably hungry.

Hunger that drives these flocks now, half-starved out of their little brains, they flock in droves -- risking even food they spot in the midst of moving traffic. In taking the risk to grab a spec of food, in seizing the moment and going for it -- their life can be taken. Just one wrong move.

But who really cares?

They're just pigeons. Flying rats. Pests.

I do.

After the incident three years ago, I began a little research to find out if anyone, anywhere cared about pigeons.

The New York City Audubon Society said -- no, they really didn't. They worried about migratory birds. "Pigeons are the most hated and loved birds in New York" they said and wished me luck. I made some more calls and found out that New York City is in the throes of a kind of pigeon fever.

Bird-feeders pitted against bird-haters and while there is no law against feeding birds, police have been ticketing bird feeders with fines from $55.00 to $150.00. There was even one woman hauled off to jail and charged with "assault with birdseed."

Apparently, she was feeding some pigeons when two women started to hassle her, she threw the birdseed on to the sidewalk and police arrested her.

I am not kidding.

While NYC’s trending toward “Police State” may not be news, it turns out that the federal government is up to much, much worse. In their summer 2004 newsletter, the Sierra Club reported, "The ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council has created a model 'ANIMAL AND ECOLOGICAL TERRORIST ACT,' which criminalizes virtually all forms of environmental or animal rights advocacy."

Washington: Plan Would Create Eco-Terror Registry
(Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2/26)
A Senate budget proposal includes a $50,000 request to create a database of
people and organizations allegedly involved in eco-terrorist activities.
Specifically, "the Senate budget would provide $50,000 to the Washington
Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to do 'an assessment of
environmentally or politically motivated crimes against animal or natural
resources facilities,' and to create a database with 'a list of persons and
organizations involved in eco-terrorism activities.'" A similar proposal was
contained in SB 6114, a bill introduced earlier this year, that failed to move
forward due to the increased expense of enacting the stiffer penalties required by the legislation. The bill was modeled after the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) model bill entitled, "Animal and Ecological Terrorist Act."

Critics of this request contend that state law does not define eco-terrorism and anyone could appear in the database. Supporters of the measure feel it is
another tool for law enforcement to use. For more information on ALEC's Animal and Ecological Terrorist Act, visit:

I DID MORE research and found out that, according to bird-rehabillitators (they do exist; see blog post entitled Rescue/Rehab Stories) around the city; the hassling and ticketing is causing a blight on the already miserable existence of these city birds.

There have to be and there will be better solutions.
WE LIVE in a myopic world. A world where the number of animals that go extinct each day is mind-numbing

Anyone involved with animal advocacy knows there is a war on. Development and rogue capitalism have declared war against every last living, free and wonderful creature. Unless they can be caged in the prisons they call zoos or stuffed and mounted on a wall or some fraction of a percent of them can be placed on reservations; their welfare is pitiful.

Yet urban areas which have miraculously managed to host such creatures as squirrels, sparrows, pigeons, starlings, crows – even ducks and geese – are rapidly meting out death sentences. Through destroying their habitat (as is happening at warp speed in Staten Island where baby raccoons have literally been seen bloodied and stumbling out of razed construction sites by the droves); and the New Jersey Bear Hunts; and in NYC where police have effectively ticketed and fined New Yorkers out of feeding any urban animal anywhere, any time.

Meanwhile, in a dark laboratory somewhere in England, scientists boast of rescuing precious DNA from endangered species. Their hope is to – once the “inevitable” occurs – wherein all animals (except those routinely brutalized and exploited for food) are extinct; to artificially revive an animal or two – for what, I do not know.


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Firm ensures pigeons don't foul up convention

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
BY JEFFREY GOLD Associated Press

Delegates to the Republican National Convention and reporters covering it will be able to avoid one hazard of city life that bedeviled postal patrons for years. Pigeons and other birds that once landed on the historic James A. Farley Post Office building in New York and sent waste hurtling down have been persuaded to find another outhouse, with the help of a few electric shocks from a New Jersey company, the postal service said.

The post office at 34th Street in Manhattan will be the media center for the GOP gathering, which is to take place across the street at Madison Square Garden starting at the end of the month. In June 2002, a half-year before New York was chosen for the convention, the post office awarded a contract to Bell Environmental Services of Parsippany to get rid of the birds, postal service spokesman Gary Ferrari said recently.

"We did it to avert a safety and health hazard,"

pigeonpapers note:
what health hazard? where is the proof? Why couldn't the city allow for some safe areas or "cotes" (as suggested PICAS) where the birds could safely roost and the areas could be kept clean. There was no proof of any actual hazard; at most the inconvenience of occasional bird droppings. If people and animals are going to co-exist, there could be compromises and cleaner ways of managing these birds in this area. but that would require time, money and some actual interest in the welfare of these animals. My own witness of the pigeons in this area is deeply disturbing. These birds are starving, sickly and constantly tossed out of their nests; their condition is abominable. If there is one area in the city that is the cruelest to birds, it is the 34th Street area. And now this. Unbelievable.

Ferrari said. Work was completed in early 2003. "It's been very good," he said. Bell founder and president Phil Waldorf said solar-powered strips his crew installed along ledges and columns deliver a nonfatal shock to birds who land on them. After enough shocks, birds learn to avoid the building, Waldorf said." You put your hand on a stove, you don't put your hand back," he said.

The high-voltage, low-ampere current is similar to that used in wires on ranch fences to keep cattle off,


he said. He uses strips about an inch and a half wide, with insulated wires on either side carrying the current. "It can be made the color of the building," Waldorf said. It took about five weeks to install several thousand feet of the strips at the block-long Farley Post Office, he said, adding the contract was worth about $100,000.

Copyright 2004 NJ.com. All Rights Reserved.


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