NYC Wildlife: The Pigeons Outside My Window

Pigeon of mystery lurks outside my window

My air conditioner, unused since the dog days of last summer, has recently taken on a new function. It’s a pigeon boudoir.

For days, the pigeon of mystery has been landing on the unit every few minutes with a long, slim twig in his beak.

Pigeon with twig

He struts around, goggles at me through the glass and screen, then disappears. Moments later, he’s back, empty-beaked, to coo and strut before swooping down to the trees in the playground below. And in another minute, he’s back again with an almost identical twig sticking out of his beak like a long cigarette.

Pigeon with twig (the thin line to the left) checks me out.

Sometimes the pair hangs out together, billing and cooing, carrying on like teenagers in Riverside Park.  Occasionally a third pigeon tries to land, only to be chased off by one of the pair.

After more twig carrying, the twig-carrier lands on the air conditioner and begins to vibrate.  With wings arched forward and beak open, he moves the area beneath his beak rapidly up and down, his entire plump body shaking. Only the solidly-planted red legs and feet are still.

Vibrating pigeon

After ten minutes of this strange behavior, the pigeon again flies off.  Then with a great scraping of claws, both pigeons land. Cooing and bowing , they seem, well, excited.

Pigeon courtship: male bowing. Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project PigeonWatch; click image to visit website

And suddenly, wait a minute, what are they … what’s all that flapping … oh, oh, all right,  yeah… my pigeons are going at it, they’re copulating, right there on my air conditioner, just inches from my desk.  It’s over in seconds, too fast for me to grab my iPhone and take a picture.

Apparently, after mating, male pigeons clap their wings audibly in a display flight. If my male clapped, I missed it. But it probably looked something like this:

Post coital clap. Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project Pigeon Watch; click image to visit website.

Later, the pair rests amiably on a nearby fire escape.

How was it for you?

The next day, with more twig gathering going on, a friend visiting from Los Angeles makes a bold suggestion: open the window, stick your head out and look for the nest that is clearly under construction.  A brilliant idea. I angle my head out, look to the right, and find two birds staring curiously back at me from barely six feet away.

Pigeons on nest between two buildings

I’ll be tracking the pair and their nest as closely as I can, given the uncomfortable viewing arrangement. (The picture above is taken by holding my iPhone way out, while hoping I don’t drop it to the ground six floors below.)

My friend suggests a periscope.

What are those pigeons up to?

I’ll keep you posted.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, April, Birds, In the City, Wildlife/Natural History

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19 Comments on “NYC Wildlife: The Pigeons Outside My Window”

  1. […] A pigeon’s movement and shadow can raise your alertness and prevent you from sleeping. Credit: NYC Wildlife. […]

  2. […] For more on the love life of urban birds: Sex and the City Bird Sex and the Pigeon The Pigeons Outside my Window […]

  3. […] and the City Bird Sex and the Pigeon The Pigeons Outside my Window Urban Fledglings Share this:PrintEmailMoreDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Explore […]

  4. […] If you’d like to know more about the love life of urban birds, you may enjoy reading: Sex and the City Bird Sex and the Pigeon The Pigeons Outside my Window […]

  5. […] they go, I wish them luck. For more about the love life of pigeons, read Sex and the City Bird, NYC Wildlife: The Pigeons Outside My Window and Sex and the […]

  6. […] The return of color to the city, buds and leaves, lengthening days, unpredictable weather – I could go on and on.But for me, it means pigeon sex.  A few weeks ago, my air conditioner resumed its spring function as a pigeon boudoir. […]

  7. Doris Says:

    Holy crap I thought my pigeons were special! Um that was until I noticed little bites all over me yesterday! Yes they built a nest under/around my air-conditioner. I decided to google pigeon nest under my air-conditioner and found your blog. Going out to buy the fly spray now:(

  8. […] the dog days of last summer, has recently taken on a new function. It’s a pigeon boudoir,” she wrote this spring. A couple weeks later, a post celebrated the animals of Morningside Park with a photo catalog of […]

  9. jo Says:

    hallo there!

    I just want to warn you that I have a less positive experience of a pigeon nest outside my window – last year I had the same but when the pigeons left the nest my house became taken over by tiny mites that came from the nest. They streamed through the window and bit me on the leg whilst I was sleeping. Really, it was mental. We got rid of them with fly spray but it was a horrible experience. Watch out for this happening to you! good luck, Jo (by the way I am also a bird lover it has nothing to do with that!)

    • Melissa Says:

      Yikes. That sounds truly awful, like a horror movie! Thanks for the warning. Luckily, “my” pigeons are only landing outside the window as an occasional resting spot. The actual nest is kind of around the corner in a windowless nook. I do know that many wild animal nests are riddled with parasites of one kind or another. Some mammals even move their babies from one nest to another when the nest gets over-run with parasites. Don’t know if any birds do that. Ugh. Can’t shake the image of the mites streaming in through the window….

  10. Rebecca Says:

    Very cool! It’s so easy to take creatures as common and ordinary as pigeons for granted… sometimes we have to stop and remind ourselves to take a second look. They can definitely be entertaining. It’ll be fun to see the chicks eventually fledge, too!

    • Melissa Says:

      So true, Rebecca, that it’s easy to take common animals for granted. Scarcity generally drives value, but it’s helpful to remember that locally common birds, even “pest species,” may be cherished exotics elsewhere. (Well, pigeons, maybe not so much, but they’re fascinating birds anyway.) Yes, I hope the nest is viable, and the chicks hatch. The actual nest is completely out of sight, except for a twig or two and some loose down, but I’ll try to track development anyway. Even without a periscope. Thanks for the visit!

  11. Melissa Says:

    Thank you, everyone, for the comments. Hope to have more pigeon news soon.

  12. angel Says:

    Thanks. I never thought so poetically about pigeons…I must admit they’re quite boring here in Milan ’cause there’s too many of them. I saw one nest build nearby my motherinlaw’s airconditioning made by a couple of turtle doves. They build the net, made an egg and grew as a family…

  13. mthew Says:

    The male claps? Ahem, cough. So typical of us.

  14. Charlotte Says:

    Well, indeed, that was a brilliant idea. Love the pic of the periscope, and the silhouetted pigeon– quite saucy for a pigeon.

  15. katrinka Says:

    OMG. Pigeon porn!!

  16. Cindy Says:

    I love this post. Now I understand your like of the pigeon drinking from the water fountain (thanks). Pigeons are fun.

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