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Homing Pigeons

August 29, 2011

After 8 months living in a pair of cities that seem to have absolutely nothing in common except for their pigeons, I’ve come to wonder if these birds are all of the homing variety.  And I’m not talking about the kind that, compared to the rest, can find their way back.  I’m actually thinking about the idea that pigeons might actually be from someplace.  That they might actually act like they belong to their home.  Is it possible that there are Parisian pigeons?  Or New York ones?

If we stop to compare just a little, pigeons in Paris are crowded into every centimeter of space.  Flocks are piled up on benches or fighting over a miniscule corner of sidewalk when they could just move a bit further down for some prime real estate.  Some enter cafés and most fly eye-level down the sidewalk. (Usually in a direction that opposes traffic and directly aiming for your head – trust me, I’ve had one stuck in my hair).  And they have revolutions that result in missing toes or even feet.  I’ve honestly seen poor birds hobbling along on one two-toed foot and a stump.  Like a little pigeon pirate.  Parisian pigeons don’t have any concept of personal space, theirs or ours.

For me, all this talk about a total disregard for space in French pigeon-land just seems to imitate real life.  In France, the “personal bubble” is no where to be found.  Lines aren’t formed to enter or exit public transport or when waiting at the supermarket; the French just push their way through.  Demonstrations happen every second day with crowds of people overtaking the streets in droves.  I, for one, have had people sit in the chair right next to mine in a park where there are plenty of empty ones,  have been skipped over in the queue, and shoved up against the doors of the elevators of the Eiffel Tower by a couple in the midst of a rapturous kiss.  It’s a miracle that I didn’t lose a toe or two in the revolution that is trying to score a bit of personal space in Cheese-land.

I never felt as cornered or surrounded or potentially attacked by New York City’s pigeons.   They’re not congregating or flying low or sauntering down the street.  They seem stay out of your way as you stay out of theirs. Kind of like New Yorkers.  I can’t tell you the number of times I had people “warn” me to move out of their way as they are coming up quickly behind on the sidewalk.  Seriously.  Or, not-so-politely ask you to exit the train faster as they are in a rush to catch the next one.  Maybe it’s forthright.  Some can even call it rude.  I can see the impolite in there with the polite: at least we’re not knocking into one another and struggling over the desire to maintain at least an inch of space in what is, for sure, a hot, crowded, busy place.

But Parisians and New Yorkers aren’t different in every way.  Although I could go on and on describing all of the ways in which the two might not culturally see eye-to-eye, we are all human. So where, you ask, does this intersection happen in pigeons?  It’s got to be the direct, and sometimes dangerous race to any left over food.

French pigeons do, of course, have the advantage in this one.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 30, 2011 3:17 pm

    Paris pigeons! You are so spot on- I completely blocked out how they love to zoom in for your head. So funny.

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