Monday, April 16, 2012

The Pigeon Halfway House

Quote of the blog:

R---- loves the doves that roost on his window every year. He is very proud of them. He feeds them rice and takes pictures and gives us updates on how they are doing. When the eggs hatched he sent a group of us pictures of “his beautiful babies” which at that time were featherless and eyeless. C---’s response to the email was: “Those babies aren’t cute! They are really ugly!” R – was incensed and his protective retort was: “Well, your babies might be ugly one day!”


This morning three pigeons tried to nest on one of my windowsills next to my AC unit (which offer tempting nesting spaces for New York birds). Turns out three IS company. I could hear them out there arranging things, 'Ooh, we’ll put the nest here.' And ‘Oh yes, some bits of colored plastic bags and zip ties will compliment the exposed brick quite nicely.' I furiously tapped the window and they flew to the fire escape just across the way. I watched them watching me with their wee beady eyes, wings held conspicuously over beaks as they cooed conspiratorially in a group huddle. I tried to look menacing but as soon as I turned my backside (which is apparently less intimidating than I thought) they flew right back. I rushed to the window and off they went. It's not the first time we've had pigeons squat on our property. Our location: across from a tree-filled park on one side and courtyard on the other, plus windowed-ledges on three sides make our apartment prime bird-estate.

Except for one thing.

Last summer Ty's window was the spring hotspot. One morning he woke up to the well-known coo (coup?) of el pigeon. He opened his curtains and looked to the side of his AC unit and sure enough, a pigeon was nestled in the corner. The AC unit’s window fittings provided her privacy from Ty’s room and the unit itself created a “third wall” that protected her from wind. Suddenly, the pigeon who had been leisurely watching the world go by caught site of Ty’s looming figure above her in the window. She startled and hunched down but didn’t fly off. She turned one globed-eye on him and watched him watching her. If it was a staring contest she would have won. Ty tapped the accordion part if the AC unit, right behind the pigeon. She flew off but not far. To Ty's dismay he saw two eggs in the nest. BREAKFAST! Just kidding! Who would eat Pigeon-city eggs? Could you imagine? “Do you mind passing the salt, dear? These pigeon eggs smack of refuse.” Although I will admit that we joked about doing a photo shoot that involved a frying pan and breakfast. Oh, com’n. You didn’t really think we would cook the eggs in one of our pans did you? No, no. We would have gotten an old one to throw out right after the shoot.

What a dilemma. What were we to do? No one wants baby pigeons roosting outside your window- cooing at all hours. But it seemed cruel to give any bird’s eggs- even a pigeon’s- a finger-flick to plummet five stories to the courtyard below (thank you Atticus). Ty decided he would think about how to handle the situation during work and left. If the pigeon had any inkling of what was contemplated Ty might have come home to find the eggs wrapped in bubble wrap and taped with makeshift parachutes for the potential egg-drop.

During work Ty had decided that the eggs simply couldn’t stay. He came home and pulled back the curtain, but to his surprise the pigeon and eggs were gone! We couldn't figure it out. On one hand there was, I think, some relief that he didn’t have to deal with the eggs, but on the other hand – what had happened to them and the pigeon? We kicked around a few ideas: Rats? That was the first guess. Ty wasn't convinced they could scale five-stories. I tend to think rats can get almost anywhere. I also think of pigeons as rats with wings. Perhaps a Ground-Rat dropped on its cousin the Sky-Rat for brunch. What is that line from Silence Of the Lambs? 'I'm having an old friend for dinner.' we tossed around a few different ideas. It would be another week before we found out which of our guesses was correct!

A few days later he heard a familiar coo. He opened his curtain and another pigeon had moved in – or it might have been the same one. If it was the same pigeon it was more skittish than the first time around. This bird flew off as soon as Ty looked through the window and sure enough. There were new eggs in the nest. She didn’t fly off though. She kept circling and trying to land. Three times she would do fly-by swoops to come back to the nest, and perhaps because of the unfortunately small eyes of the pigeon she seemed surprised each time she approached that Ty was still there. Each time she’d come in for a touch down she would see Ty, startle, and pull up to circle again. The ledge was turning into a JFK–like landing.

This was the second single-parent pigeon. Pigeons having pigeons. Tsk. Tsk. Er, cluck cluck.
All signs pointed to unplanned pigeon parenthood.That's when the ledge was nick-named: The Pigeon Halfway House. Ty was back in the same dilemma. Should he flick? Again, he decided to take action when he came home from work and once again, returned only to Find another empty nester! The eggs were gone. All that remained was one full-grown pigeon feather.

Just two days later Ty had new tenants. He could hear the pigeon out there on the ledge behind his curtains (do they make sound proof curtains?). She was rearranging the place, settling in- when all of a sudden there was a ruckus of squawking and wings flapping and a noise on the AC Unit. Ty ran to the window and pulled back the curtain to see a Red-Tailed Hawk poised on top of the AC unit - wings outstretched and ready to strike the protective pigeon below. The unexpected presence- and closeness- of the tall winged-raptor surprised Ty; and the movement of the curtain and Ty's presence surprised the bird. They both squawked. Ty took a step back and the hawk swooped off.

I've seen a few Red-Tailed hawks in the park but they're perched high on a branch eyeing rodent-size dogs. They’re quite majestic. Maybe allowing Three is Company to roost on my windowsill isn’t the worst idea. I would like to see one of those wild hawks up-close and a little Park Bait might just do the trick.