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Pigeons deserve own national holiday
March 27, 2008
Pigeons deserve own national holiday, says New York Bird Club founder
BY LARRY McSHANE
Anna Dove, founder of the New York Bird Club, sings the praises of pigeons, calling them friendly birds.
The average New York pigeon is not, as its legion of detractors contend, diseased. Or destructive. Or in need of Depends.
The oft-vilified denizen of city parapets and parks is simply plagued by public relations problems - and that's where Anna Dove swoops in.
The aptly named founder of the New York Bird Club believes the pigeon - like Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus - deserves its own holiday. Her choice: June 13, the anniversary of World War I carrier pigeon Cher Ami's 1919 death.
"Pigeons are very friendly birds," says Dove, who provides feed for her feathered friends on the upper East Side. "They're getting a bad deal. It's terrible - people pick on them."
Some of it, she says, is simple pigeon slander - "rats with wings" is a typical slur.
A pigeon's life can turn quickly from cooing to cruelty - there's kidnapping for live pigeon shoots in neighboring states.
And just last month, a city worker was arrested after running down three pigeons with a golf cart.
"Little defenseless birds," says the self-appointed defender of the pigeon population, a lone voice among the many who see the birds as head-bobbing, wing-flapping pests.
Even with her bird blinders on, Dove can't deny the biggest complaint about pigeons: their ubiquitous droppings.
The typical urban pigeon, during its four-year lifespan, leaves about 100 pounds worth. Given that New York is home to an estimated 1 million pigeons ... well, you do the math.
From the Henry Hudson Expressway to Midtown Tunnel to the Lorimer St. el station in Brooklyn, the pigeon poop has created vile odors, layers of moldering filth and escalating cleanup tabs.
City Council member Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), tired of the endless droppings, proposed legislation last year to make feeding pigeons in public illegal.
The still-pending bill, similar to one in place in London, would make Dove and other pigeon enablers liable for a $1,000 fine.
Felder had no opposition to Dove's holiday campaign - but still offered little love for its potential honorees.
"You can name a day anything," Felder said. "Regardless of what day it is, you shouldn't be feeding pigeons in public."
Dove's pigeon promotion has caused some personal aggravation. She was recently feeding the pigeons near her apartment when a neighbor approached, asked her to stop "feeding the rats" - and then punched her in the arm.
Dove wasn't surprised. And she's certain of one thing: The pigeons are a lot cleaner than a lot of their critics.
"I see a little bit of pigeon poop," she says. "But I see a lot more pizza boxes out there."