Friday, June 13, 2008

"Pigeons on the grass, alas"

Thus G. Stein. My take: pigeons on the roof, aloof.

It’s national pigeon day. I wasn’t planning on paying any attention -- come on, a week ago I was watching kestrels on 15th St -- until I was sitting in Cobble Hill Park during the lunch hour. A pied male was all fluffed up trying to impress a hen. He had the most amazing coral red legs. The color would have made an excellent lipstick. He and his would-be mate stared at me, waiting for me, the messy monkey, to give up some crumbs. But I’d already finished my milkshake (it’s also reverse courses day: a salad of mizuna and romaine was my dessert), so I had bupkis for them.

The street pigeons we all know are actually rock doves (Columba livia), a Eurasian species imported to the Americas. Originally rock and cliff dwellers, they take superbly to the urban environment. They were domesticated to be eaten, as squab, but now they're free and feral. They’ve had the last laugh. They eat us. Not actually, of course, but they do eat our garbage, which makes the usual repulsion many feel for these animals (they’re filthy, they’re rats with wings, etc.) a case study in perverse projection. We’re the animal that fouls its nest. That others evolve to complement the now-worldwide niche of blundering, wasteful, walking-disaster H. sapiens shouldn’t be a surprise. To persecute such things (in thought as well as action) is self-loathing disguised.


knithound brooklyn said...

Well, that's a new perspective. Thankyouverymuch. But I still don't like it when they swoop up from the sidewalk and flap around your face!

Marie said...

I agree! About not loathing pigeons, I mean. Seeing them early this spring (was there a spring, one forgets so fast) - eating new shoots in trees made them seem so much more bird- and not scavenger-like...