Pigeons: They’re Not That Bad


Today in City Room’s Complaint Box, where curmudgeons go to curmudgeon-ify, there’s a charming little entry about New York’s most common bird. Author Louise Dreier’s Upper West Side neighbors have a pigeon nest, horror of horrors, and she’s not going to stand for it anymore.

The pigeons have set up shop in the airshaft, and no matter how many water balloons Dreier throws at them, or how many times she fantasizes about ripping the birds’ legs off, they’re still there. Annoying, yes, but we humbly suggest that pigeons are not actually that bad.

Dreier writes, “The situation had escalated to a public health hazard that deprived me of the full enjoyment of my overpriced apartment. I had to fight back.”

According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, “Contact with pigeon droppings may pose a small health risk.” There are three things you could potentially get: histoplasmosis (“Most people, however, do not show any symptoms”), cryptococcosis (“It is very unlikely that healthy people will become infected even at high levels of exposure”), and psittacosis (“In New York City, psittacosis is very rare with less than one human case identified each year”). So, the health threat posed by pigeons is — sorry Louise — minimal.

Dreier talked to the neighbors, who did nothing, because they probably didn’t care, because it’s not that big a deal. She reacted by throwing water balloons at the birds, who “flew around in zigzag patterns, flapping and screeching in despair.” But the menace was not confined to the airshaft.

When I’m having brunch outdoors they silently wiggle their way beneath the tables and chairs. I can’t cross my legs without the risk of brushing a foot against them.


On one memorable occasion, a miscalculated flight left a pigeon tangled in my friend’s hair as she jogged in Central Park. Both girl and bird screamed frantically while the latter flapped its wings and dug its claws into her scalp.

The above anecdote sounds like something we would recount with glee at every opportunity. But Dreier was not amused: “I would never have recovered.” She ends the piece by admitting to daydreaming about tearing pigeons’ legs off.


There are about 1 million pigeons in New York City, which means that you can share a pigeon with seven other people. Considering that they pose a minimal health risk and are just generally mild, peaceful animals, we propose that there are worse pests in the city. Team Pigeon.