Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Pigeons of Pyshkinskaya: More Than Flying Rats

What on earth are you doing?

The guy in the fluorescent orange vest charged up to the man feeding the pigeons.

Don’t you know those birds make a terrible mess?

Mr. Pigeon Feeder continued with his tearing off hunks of bread and tossing them to the gaggle gathered around him.

Mr. Orange Vest would be a city employee assigned to keep Pyshkinskaya Boulevard picked up, the petunias watered and the park benches aligned. And flocks of pigeons just don’t fit in with a neighborhood that's more and more upscale.

To the bird feeders of the world, pigeons might seem poetic with a big-city charm. Others see pigeons as flying rats, dirty carriers of disease and a growing nuisance, thanks to the folks who dole out bread.

Nevertheless, pigeons proved themselves to be quite useful during World Wars I and II. Pigeons were vital during D-Day communications when any other messages might have been intercepted by the enemy. Throughout the war, specially trained pigeons accompanied paratroopers behind enemy lines and then, with tiny cameras strapped to their chests, headed back home, providing quite literally a. . . a bird’s eye view of enemy goings-on.

Over the years, several pigeons have been awarded military honors for their wartime service, the most famous being Cheri Ami. It's fun to imagine pigeons strutting around with military medals pinned to their feathers.

Several years back when I, myself, lived on Pyshkinskaya Boulevard, I went through a pigeon-feeding stage. It started with one pigeon, Charles, I named him, because he was reserved and dignified, rather gentlemanly in fact. Charles would appear on my kitchen window sill for a bite to eat. Out of all the windows on that vast building, he was able to pick out mine and return there as though equipped with a built-in GPS. What fun we had, that little pigeon and I, until word spread to his feathered friends and what a bunch of thugs they were. Very soon, near riots erupted when I put out bread. All that pushing and shoving was quite unpleasant and I get quite enough of that sort of behavior from the other two-footed creatures on the trams and buses.

Soon I'd had enough of the pigeon feeding and decided to quit that cold turkey. Still those hopeful fellows would spot me in the kitchen and start hopping around on the ledge for food. Eventually their visits tapered off, but even 2-3 years later, a pigeon or two would show up begging for food. Fortunately, I didn't spot any cameras strapped to their bellies.

And what about you, dear blog reader, are you a feeder of pigeons or do you consider them flying rats? Say, if you were ever a photographer pigeon and ended up in another country, where would you like to be sent to photograph the scenery?


Can Bass 1 said...

I'm afraid feral pigeons are the scourge of our cathedral, ruining the limestone and shedding feathers on our cassocks. So no, I'm afraid I'm not a pigeon-feeder.

Anonymous said...

So far, no, I'm not a pigeon feeder. But if a smart pigeon makes its way to my yard, I will most definitely throw a little bread out there! Thanks for all your posts. This is my favorite blog.

Kristi in CA