I sit and watch a pigeon flatten itself out on a newly fertilized lawn space. Its entire underbelly is wading in crap, and the degree of contempt and disgust I feel for these birds bubbles to the surface. It may be written on my face. The smell of the fertilizer certainly doesn’t help.
Pigeons are dirty and truly annoying birds. They are, in my mind, the spawn of rats and roaches, and some are so audacious that they will snatch some of the food that you’re eating right off your plate. I understand that they are somehow an integral part of a complex ecosystem, but I still pine for a world where pigeons are less populous. Why can’t we have adorable penguins waddling around Dallas? Dang you, science!
Don’t get me wrong: I am an animal person (more so than a people person, really), but I have this visceral aversion to pigeons. I’m not completely sure when or how I began to actively dislike them. It feels like something that has always been there. Or maybe I have hated them since watching Hitchcock’s The Birds at much too young an age, a fact that didn’t travel out of my subconscious until I was 20 years old.
When I was 17, I went on a spring break trip to Italy (yay Catholic school!) and was horrified at how the pigeons crowded the city streets. It seemed like there was a one-to-one pigeon-to-human ratio in Italy. One of my classmates actually managed to catch one in his hand, just to see if he could. When he let the pigeon go, he had what I can only describe as oil on his hand.
Until moving to Dallas last summer, I had never lived in a city with more than 150,000 people. This means that the pigeon population was never large enough to be particularly disturbing. Now that I’m here, however, the birds sometimes stifle my happiness on my walks, runs, or bike rides. Sometimes during my walks, I find myself running after them and flailing my arms just so they’ll make lame attempts at flying away. I dread the day that I end up kicking a lethargic pigeon. I may dislike them, but I’m not cruel. Plus, I don’t ever want the aforementioned pigeon oil to get on me.
I spend a lot of time outside, and I really love going to parks. Sometimes I throw around a frisbee or play with the dogs, but other times I like to bring a book or pen and paper and just relax. One day, I was reading a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain that a friend had loaned me. It was a nice day, and there was absolutely no warning about the poo that landed a few lines below where I was reading. It took me a moment to process the splat, and when I did, I tilted my head back and I swear the pigeon on the branches above was laughing at me. There wasn’t anything I could do—the page was ruined. I was nervous that he had more ammo for the book and me, so I didn’t try to scare him away. I left the park and bought a new copy of the book for my friend.
I almost dance with happiness when I go somewhere and see a sign that says “Do not feed the birds”—something the DART stops should invest in. I can’t recount how many times I’ve seen someone throwing morsels and pigeons jockey for a taste of human food. I want to yell, “DON’T DO IT! THEY’LL NEVER GO AWAY!” But let’s be honest, I look crazy enough when I attempt to chase them away. I shouldn’t solidify that perception by vocalizing my thoughts.
There is a place I’ve found, however, where the security guards tell people to please not feed the birds—Klyde Warren Park. I am able to sit and enjoy the park without constantly being harassed by birds. During a lunch hour a few months ago, I somehow ended up sitting in the middle of a group of masticating, uniform-wearing school children. I watched a few of them throw their crumbs to the ground, and instantly, pigeons were there, pecking away. Then my knight in shining security guard uniform told the children, “Please don’t feed the birds.” I was pleased for nearly 30 seconds.
The children were crafty enough to wait until the security guard had walked far enough away to resume feeding the pigeons. There wasn’t a teacher in sight. This was my moment to say what I wanted to about the pigeons. I could fight the pestilence and not look like an insane person!
“Think he just told y’all to not feed the birds,” I said.
The kids stopped flinging their food, but the pigeons stayed to finish off their dwindling rations.
One girl stood up, fiddled with her sandwich, and then crouched down. She extended her arm and opened her hand to reveal a piece of crust. She looked at me and said, “But they’re God’s creatures.” As if on cue, a pigeon hopped towards her hand and cautiously pecked.
I mean, what the hell can I say to that?
Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 3 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.