Posted tagged ‘NYC pigeons’

Spring Celebration: Urban Birds Makin’ Whoopee

March 20, 2013

It’s spring, and the air is filled with romance.

In honor of all the exciting animal activity going on in the city, here is a brief Urban Wildlife Valentine from Out Walking the Dog.

Enjoy!


This video was originally posted on Valentine’s Day, 2012.

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

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Baby Pigeons

June 2, 2012

In early May, a baby pigeon played peek-a-boo on my window ledge. This baby, not yet full-sized, huddled for hours on the window sill, peeping loudly in a tiny high voice.

Note the black eyes and scruffy feathers that indicate this is a young bird.

Every spring, I watch a brood or two of squabs learn to fly from a nest hidden between my building and the building next door. (To see an amusing video of the parents courting and copulating on my air conditioner in February, click here.) Although easy to mistake for an adult, this baby was still many days away from self-sufficiency.  In fact, you won’t often see a baby this young down at street level. Still dependent on its parents for food and protection, it spent days practicing flying from its sixth-floor nest to nearby ledges and rooftops and back again.

Mom and Dad stopped by regularly to feed the baby or just to keep an eye on me and make sure I was behaving myself.

Note the red eye and smooth feathers of an adult bird.

After a few hours, the baby flapped awkwardly off to its hidden nest, just a few yards away.  The babies are off on their own now, and I confess that after this last brood left, I finally decided to put up plastic pigeon spikes to keep future pigeon families from landing on my air conditioner.  I’ll miss seeing them there, but I won’t miss waking just after dawn to the scratch and scrabble of claws on metal or the booming coos of courtship.

And anyway, they still visit the window ledge.

For more on the pigeons outside my window, visit the archives:

Sex and the City Bird
Sex and the Pigeon

The Pigeons Outside my Window

Urban Fledglings

Pigeons and Starlings in Flight

January 3, 2012

Watching a flock of city pigeons in flight can be mesmerizing. Here is my first attempt to capture a flock in flight, wheeling and circling over 110th Street and Broadway.  Is it my imagination or does the flock grow, attracting other birds to fly with it as if by centrifugal force? Look closely at around the 35 second mark and then again around 42 seconds. Strange and wonderful.

And for a more spectacular vision of birds in flight, watch this video of a murmuration of European starlings soaring above the River Shannon in Ireland.

Starlings frequently gather in huge flocks, and then fly together, making incredible patterns in the sky. For another look with a bit of an explanation, watch the longer video below from England.

Urban Fledglings

June 7, 2011

In the middle of April, I saw my first fledglings of the year: Columba livia, also known as rock doves, and best known simply as … pigeons.

Young pigeons have dark eyes; their parents have red eyes.

Three brave young birds landed awkwardly on the window ledge and air conditioner of my sixth floor NYC apartment, having made their first flight from the nest hidden some yards away on a ledge between two buildings.

Young pigeon on the nearby building ledge that leads to its hidden nest.

Apparently many New Yorkers insist they’ve never seen a baby pigeon, and believe a mystery, possibly including a conspiracy of some sort, surrounds that strange factoid.  “Where are all the baby pigeons?” they ask in a tone implying that no one is pulling the wool over their eyes.  The answer is simple: they’re all around you.

Pigeon babies spend their first weeks on simple nests, sometimes no more than an unstructured collection of random twigs) that are usually hidden from sight high up on building ledges.  It’s not until they start flying and feeding independently that they’re spotted by human New Yorkers. By that time, they sport adult feathers and have reached their adult size. In fact, they may be fatter than many adults, since they have little muscle tone, having spent their first weeks sitting on the nest, being crammed with food by doting parents.  So baby pigeons are all around us, though difficult for a casual observer to distinguish from an adult. Look for dark eyes, a curious disposition, and stray bits of down that yield a slightly scruffy appearance to the youngsters.

As for the clumsy, curious and skittish young pigeons outside my window, well, I felt a degree of attachment to the naive and ungainly trio.  After all, I had watched the parents mate – repeatedly, I might add – on the air conditioner outside my bedroom.

I had seen the male carry twigs and unidentified objects to the secret nest.

I had heard the low coos of parental pillow talk and the wild peeps of infant hunger.  Now the big babes stood outside my window, craning their necks around to look down at the street, up at the sky, and inside the apartment at me.

Truly, they seemed, at first, stunned by their new perspective on the great world. Several times over the next few days, one of the babies would huddle for hours beneath the air conditioning unit (the top of which had been the scene of many a parental coupling). It would peer out, crying for mom and dad with high-pitched peeps that belied its size.

It's scary out here.

Sometimes a parent flew down and fed the babies.  At other times, Mom and Dad perched on the railing of a nearby balcony, where they could keep an eye on the youngsters.

Who's watching the kids?

The pigeons spent the better part of a week practicing their flying, indulging their curiosity and learning about the world.  They craned their necks to track adult birds flying overhead

"Mom? Dad? Is that you up there?"

When they noticed me, they became curious

"Oh. Hello."

 The birds sometimes made awkward landings or, like adolescents everywhere, exhibited poor judgment compounded by inexperience.  When the cat made a sudden appearance,

Inter-species fascination

one bird flew straight up and straight into the window screen.  Seems counter-intuitive, I know, but that’s what happened. It then clung by its claws to the screen for several seconds, its wings madly flapping, completely freaking out the poor old cat.  I was afraid it was stuck, but it freed itself and flapped clumsily off.

Over the course of the next week, the birds stopped peeping for their parents, and became assured fliers. They even gained some tolerance for cats on the other side of the glass.

Inter-species obliviousness.

 The pigeon siblings are off to join the legions of rock doves that swirl through the New York skies.

Maybe they’ll try to infiltrate Victor Casiano’s rooftop flock, just a block away.

Members of Victor's flock

Or join the flock that feeds every day in Morningside Park.

Pigeons like snowflakes

Wherever 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 Pigeon.  For more about Victor Casiano, the last rooftop pigeon fancier in Morningside Heights, read Victor Casiano’s Rooftop Pigeons and Up on Victor’s Roof.

NYC Wildlife: The Pigeons Outside My Window

April 11, 2010

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.


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