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Note #47: Pigeon man (2009.9.23)

I had not meant for things to stagnate here for so long, but life kind of got in the way. I won’t bore you with the details—because, believe me, they are boring—but it involved a whole lot of work followed by a cold that didn’t have the best timing. But all of that, or at least most of that, is behind me now, so rather than dwelling on the past, I’d like to look forward.

There are a lot of things I’d like to write about. In fact, I have four very specific entries that need to get written, along with a lot of photos that need to get put up. But after over two weeks of silence, my writing muscles are a bit tight, so I’m first going to loosen up with a little exercise in creative babbling.

As I mentioned in my last entry, I have been getting up early in the morning to go running. My running schedule has been rather sketchy as of late, but I’ve still been getting up early to get work done. Anyway, last week or so I noticed something as I looked out my window early in the morning, shortly after sunrise. The building across from us is only four stories high, and since we live on the seventh floor, we have a lovely view of the rather featureless roof. Well, featureless except for the large number of pigeons that congregate there.

One morning I was watching the pigeons go through their morning routine when the roof-level door opened and a man came out. He walked over to a mesh cage that had been built up against the... well, you know, the little structure on top of roofs that houses the door and the stairs leading up to them. What do we call that? Anyway, this cage was around the corner from the door, built up against the wall. He went inside the cage with a bucket and put something into a pie tin, and then set the pie tin on the floor. When he exited the cage, the pigeons started to flock toward it, and I realized that it must have been bird seed. The man rounded the corner, ducked under something that I couldn’t see, and made as if to open the door and head back down the stairs.

He didn’t open the door, though. Instead, he crept back toward the corner and peeked around to look at the cage. He put his hand up in the air, waited, and then yanked it down suddenly. The cage door slammed shut. The pigeons inside the cage fluttered about a bit in surprise, while the few pigeons remaining outside seemed distressed that they were now separated from their friends. The man had been ducking under a string or wire connected to the cage door—that was what I couldn’t see.

He repeated this process several times, going into the cage to refill the tin with bird seed, heading back out, ducking under the wire, pretending to go back inside, and then creeping back to spring the trap. After three or four tries, he apparently felt that he got as many pigeons inside the cage as possible, and he went back inside for real. The whole thing amused me greatly, primarily because the man seemed to think the pigeons were smart enough that an elaborate ruse and act was necessary to fool them into the cage. They’re pigeons, for crying out loud. They’re used to being around people. You could probably fill the tin with bird seed, stand right next to the cage, and then slam the door shut by hand with more or less the same results. Still, it was pretty clever how the door was rigged, and it did get the job done.

I saw the man do this over a period of several days, and I figured that he was locking the pigeons up for the day so they wouldn’t bother people or fly around crapping on everything. It didn’t really make all that much sense, but I didn’t know what else to think. This morning, though, I happened to look out the window early in the morning and notice that there was not a single pigeon in sight. I mentioned this to Hyunjin and she commented that they must have all been killed.

“No,” I said, “Why would they do that? They probably just went south because it’s getting colder.” Hyunjin said that she had heard the government was taking steps to reduce the pigeon population. “Flying rats,” she said, with undisguised disgust.

So I was thinking today: do pigeons actually migrate? As soon as I said it this morning it sounded odd. I’ve seen geese fly south, but never a flock of pigeons. Well, thank goodness for the internet. A quick search told me that pigeons, in fact, do not migrate—at least the big city pigeons don’t. Apparently they stay in the cities year round. And even if they did migrate, it wouldn’t be nearly cold enough for them to do so anyway. So maybe the government is wiping out the pigeons, and the pigeon man who amused me for several days is actually an agent of genocide. Everything looks a little different now.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope to be back soon with more substantial fare.

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