Do Pigeons Grieve?
I shoo them, but they always come back. I have a small window on a diagonal from the air conditioner window, and this is my vantage point for shooing. For a while I'd threaten them with a broomstick. Then I bought a water gun, which I figured would be a benign way to get rid of them, and would be more fun for me. So I'd shoot them, and they'd fly away, but minutes later they'd return. Nobody ever talks about Pavlov's pigeons, but after a while it got to the point where if they'd hear the window open they'd fly away. Fat lot of good it did me. They'd still return minutes later. Pigeons either have short memories or they're not very good at putting two and two together.
I once complained to my friend Joanna about my recalcitrant pigeons. "They just don't get it," I said. "No matter how many times I shoo them away, they come back, and I have to go through the same routine minutes later."
"Of course they don't get it," Joanna said. "They're birdbrains."
This morning I heard the pigeons. I opened the window and they flew away. I saw that there was a fairly large nest atop the air conditioner, and in the middle was a little white egg. I got a broomstick and knocked the whole thing down, egg and all, three stories to the ground.
A few minutes later I noticed that one of the pigeons was back atop the air conditioner, but in a different position than usual. It was sitting motionless against the window–slumped, if one could say that of a pigeon. I figured it was the mother, grieving for her lost egg. I shooed her away, but she kept coming back, returning to the same position.
Should I care? I had given her ample warning, hadn't I? Is it my fault she's a pigeon?
Still, it saddened me.