New York City Has Its Pigeon Protectors


Pigeons: “rats with wings,” grudge holders, poopers. Yes, our cohabitors have kind of a bad rap, even though we at Runnin’ Scared have pointed out that they probably don’t deserve the hate they get. But who really bestows any love upon them? The New York Times has answered that question in a story featuring the humans that go against the pigeon-hating grain and act as the animals’ saviors and protectors.

You may remember the Times’ protagonist from a story we blogged in December. Jennifer Dudley, an opera singer and wildlife rehabilitator rescued Fred, the pigeon known for dive-bombing cops at the 9/11 Memorial.

Dudley is a member of the New York City Pigeon Rescue Central:

The city provides virtually no official services for its ubiquitous and little-loved gray birds, first brought here from Europe as food by settlers. So the rescuers fill a niche.

The group, one of a few in the city dedicated to pigeon welfare, functions through a Yahoo message board, active since 2004. Membership officially exceeds 400, but the core is a fastidious, perpetually concerned team of about dozen pigeon lovers, animal activists and eccentrics, some perhaps finding meaning in fighting for a neglected cause.

The Rescue Central’s website — which coos at you after it loads — provides tips on how to care for pigeons, shares “pigeon stories” and dispels pigeon myths. For instance, when addressing concerns about handling pigeons, the site notes:

If a pigeon could talk, he would tell you that he does not like being called dirty. Given the opportunity, the pigeon will bathe in clean water at least once a day. He would eat his normal food, seed and not frankfurters. It isn’t the bird’s fault that it has to live in a city made dirty by people.

Regardless, per the Times, rescuing pigeons is definitely an eccentric enterprise. Dudley brings a bird to a diner in her bag and keeps many at her apartment, playing them classical music when she leaves.

The reasoning she gives for her pigeon-care has to do with social justice.

“Lots of us see how pigeons are maligned and ignored,” she told the Times. “If you have that thread running through you, you know what it’s like. I know what it feels like to be ignored. At worst, maligned. I think lots of us feel that way, even if they won’t say it.”