Thursday, July 19, 2007

Do Pigeons Grieve?

I've had an ongoing pigeon problem, ever since I moved into my current apartment. They're always hanging around my air conditioner, making annoying noises: cooing, gurgling, rustling, banging, landing with a thump, fluttering their wings against the window, you name it. Sometimes they're on top of the air conditioner, and sometimes they nestle under the unit on the window ledge. Sometimes they try to build a nest, and the twigs get inside the air conditioner.

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.


Blogger Richard said...

Yeah, from what I've noticed, they get really upset when a baby or egg dies. Every summer when I lived on West 85th St. in the 1980s, a pair of pigeons would nest and have eggs. Sometimes the eggs wouldn't hatch, sometimes they would and the babies would die, and they went into a keening state.

At least half the time, though, the babies (usually two) would grow up in a very short time and they'd all fly away. (That's why you never see baby pigeons.) I used to like to watch them feed.

I've also twice seen pigeons in Riverside Park hopping all over and very upset over a dead pigeon, which I presumed was their mate.

I do think pigeons grieve. I've observed what looks like it too many times to believe otherwise.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cruel !!


3:35 PM  
Anonymous Marge Ellsworth said...

Cruel!! And not anonymous.

9:22 PM  
Blogger TomStarling said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

Comment above removed for unsolicited advertising.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Mike Detrick said...

What's the matter with you? Such a heartless thing to do...

11:40 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Hernandez said...

im so sad right now. there was a pigeon's nest up on a tree by my apartment window (2nd floor) that i would check on every morning. we just experienced a bad hail storm last night. the nest isn't there anymore, the nest is on the ground with two dead baby birds (already hatched; no egg shells) and the same pigeon keeps hopping from branch to branch almost looking for her nest. i wish i could help :(

8:16 AM  
Blogger Rani Pillay said...

It must be observed that the pigeons don’t understand our reasoning nor that the outside of buildings and trees belong to any human, if there’s no bird in it or on it, then it will make a nice home. feral pigeons can’t be trained to understand your shooting gestures and what it means. Personally I feel blessed when I can observe nature at its best...even from in a concrete jungle and from a concrete slab. Karma....comes around.

9:15 AM  

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