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What Do I Do About The Pigeon Lady?

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Q.  I live on the third floor of a co-op in Washington Heights.  The lady below me on two throws piles of bird seed out her window every morning to feed the pigeons.  At first I didn’t say anything.  There were only a few and I figured if it makes her happy, I could live with a little billing and cooing.  But word must have gotten out in the pigeon community and now there are whole families or flocks that fly in from nowhere as soon as she opens her window.

It’s disgusting.  And unsanitary. They shit all over the sidewalk. Their feathers fly up into my apartment.  I don’t know if they’re mating or fighting or just having a good time, but I’m not — they make so much noise they wake me up. And I’m sure they’re carrying diseases that could cross over from pigeons to people.

I asked her a few times to please stop feeding them or to scatter her birdseed somewhere else, but she just laughed, and said didn’t I know that pigeons, like all birds, are really modern-day dinosaurs, and don’t I want to help preserve the species.  I think she’s a little weird,   maybe more. And to get even, she got a bigger bag of feed. I saw it in the package room the other day next to the Fresh Direct boxes when I went to pick up my cleaning.  Help!  Feathered in Washington Heights

A.  The first thing you need to know is that there’s been an evolution in the perception of pigeons.  Not so many years ago they were universally despised. Companies sprung up devoted to eradicating pigeon populations with poison or electric coils or slippery substances placed on window sills.

But now that all living creatures – even roaches — are considered part of the family of man, so to speak, pigeons are getting new respect. Websites like Pigeon Talk and New York Bird Club extol the virtues of the pigeon. As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, groups dedicated to protecting pigeons from being captured and sold for use in shooting competitions have sprung up. June 13 has been declared National Pigeon Day (unofficially for now).

That doesn’t mean you should have to tolerate hordes of pigeons under your nose , though according to The Department of Health, it’s unlikely you’ll get any diseases from them. But whereas once you could have been Rambo-like in pursuit of your cause, I’d suggest you take a more reasoned approach that balances the rights of man and beast, excuse me bird.

There is no law that makes pigeon feeding illegal per se. The Parks Dept may post notices prohibiting feeding in certain areas under its control, but that won’t help solve your problem because you live in a co-op, not a public playground. It’s possible, though unlikely, that scattering bird seed would be deemed littering under the Sanitation Code, because usually the pigeons eat the stuff so fast it’s gone before it can be considered trash.

You can call 311, and report your neighbor to the DOH. Even though it’s not illegal to feed pigeons, if the situation is creating an unsanitary condition they will come and inspect and may issue a fine.

Most likely you don’t need government invention because the House Rules of many buildings have a provision that specifically says no pigeons or other birds shall be fed from the window sills so the board should take action if the situation gets out of control

And if none of that works, I just read there’s a new pigeon contraceptive available online without a prescription that is safe and effective – but you didn’t hear it from me

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3 Responses to “What Do I Do About The Pigeon Lady?”

  1. Anntelope says:

    Pigeons are everywhere in NYC and if they were so diseased, we’d all be very sick. That’s mostly a load of hogwash and in fact, the only things I know of you can catch from pigeons are one, pigeon lung (which you nearly have to work at to catch by spending a lot of time in a pigeon coop that’s not kept clean) and salmonella (which you’d probably have to eat their poo to catch). Anyway, I find it strange that you can hear the pigeons three floors down, especially over the din of cars honking horns and garbage trucks and delivery trucks and ambulances and fire trucks and people screeching, dogs barking and children playing. Perhaps you just don’t like birds?

  2. Denise says:

    My God, what insulated selfish, sub-humanoids you two are. We share the earth with animals. There are ways that someone can feed and clean up after pigeons. You might want to work WITH someone rather than denigrate and fight them.

    Oh, by the way, the scent of freshly excreted dog poop and dog urine is forever wafting up from our sidewalks. It’s like walking in Calcutta — NOW that IS disgusting. At one time we had laws that required owners to “curb their dogs.” Meaning no endless pee and poop on sidewalks.

    So before you wrinkle your unkind nose up in an unattractive way, look at how you contribute to the unpleasantries of life in NYC.

    The pigeons don’t even have a leg up on the filth that fido deposits multiple times a day, many times NOT retrieved by selfish owners. Forget the poop, the sidewalks smell like urine and it has ZERO to do with pigeons — it’s YOUR DOGS and that they are allowed to pee all over the sidewalks, poop on the sidewalk. Talk about filthy and disgusting.

    So get a grip and ask this woman if she could feed the group in the backyard and then clean up after them. Yes, pigeons can be very vocal, but let’s face so can YOU!

    Your lack of kindness, insight into pigeons, compassion for any living creature except those deigned by you as worthy, makes me get down on my knees and thank the angels I am not you, do not live near you and would never associate with someone as sad, shallow, uncaring and cold as you are.

    Why not devote all this misplaced anger and zeal into bringing back the “curb your dog” laws or do you like the steaming scent of dog urine and fesces wafting up on every block.

    Get a grip — try a bit of compassion if that doesn’t shock your system too much.

    Have a lovely day


  3. Drew says:

    Dear Feathered in Washington Heights,

    I feel for you. There is also a pigeon lady who lives on my block who leaves chunks of bread all along the street. While I am rather indifferent to the fact that she is feeding pigeons, I am disgusted by the fact that she is (probably unknowingly) contributing to the rat population while she feeds her feathered friends. Pigeons and rats are both scavengers and there is more than enough for them to eat in NYC without people willfully dropping extra food for them, so maybe we should let them pick up the stuff that is accidentally dropped before we give them extras. The streets might be more clean for everyone if the pigeons were forced to live by their natural instincts and pick up bits of dropped food here and there rather than being able to fill up on free meals with “pigeon ladies.”
    I am not against animals of any kind, I love them very much, but I am able to recognize the fact that NYC inadvertently provides plenty of food for a scavenger without people going out of their way to give them more. I don’t think we should go around killing pigeons but I do think we have enough of them and I’m not really looking to contribute to their population explosion. Letting them look for their own food is only natural and helps keep their populations under control (pigeons and rats alike).

    In response to Denise: You have clearly missed the point of the question posed by “Feathered in Washington Heights.” You have taken a question about people feeding pigeons and turned it into a rant about your annoyance for dog owners.


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