It’s early in the morning on Pilgrim Hill in Central Park. In a few hours, this space will be filled with people celebrating the third annual National Pigeon Day and crowding out the guests of honor who are already here: the pigeons.
Anna Dove, president of the New York Bird Club, will lead today’s events. Dove, who changed her name from Augusta Kugelmas as an homage to her dearly departed Lucie-Dove, founded this day to fight institutional discrimination against pigeons. The original date is June 13th, the anniversary of the death of Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon and decorated hero of World War I, which is now stuffed and mounted in the Museum of American History.
Unfortunately, this year the city’s Puerto Rican Day parade is also scheduled on June 13. With no city permit, the pigeons’ holiday must be celebrated a week later. Racial bias? Perhaps. Not even an angry bird lover would dare say anything negative about the parade. Dove is hopeful that the government will ratify June 13 as National Pigeon Day. In 2008, its inaugural year, she told The New York Times, “We are trying to do for pigeons what Martin Luther King did for his people.” Right on, sister.
Dove was a victim of prejudice this past winter when an enraged retired schoolteacher snatched a bag of birdseed from her hands and threw it over a fence. He later claimed he’d been concerned about rats eating the food. Dove has filed charges against the man, who she claimed poked and shoved her, telling the New York Post, “The guy was violent, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a weapon next time.” These are dark days, indeed, when a citizen can’t violate the New York sanitation code prohibiting littering.
As it turns out, Ms. Dove is no stranger to being on the wrong side of Johnny Law. In 2003, she was arrested for assault after she threw birdseed in the face of a Parks Department volunteer who had pointed out that city rules prohibit feeding in public parks. The volunteer, Carol McCabe, told the Post that some of the seed scratched her eye, requiring medical attention. She also stated that she had obtained a restraining order against Ms. Dove, describing her as “a little kooky.”
According to Andrew Blechman, author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Creature, Anna (then Augusta) said the volunteer was “a bitch with Mafioso ties” and that she’d thrown the seed at the woman to protect herself. The charges were eventually dropped, and Dove founded a club for the downtrodden pigeon feeders of New York City, which led eventually to the festivities taking place today.
Some of Anna’s flock may come to the park today in the hope that Woody Allen will finally show up. For three years, they have waited for the director to apologize for referring to pigeons as “rats with wings.” Anna urged members of her New York Bird Club to help her to pressure the writer-director into attending. The Village Voice reprinted Dove’s directive to her followers.
Please contact the list below and request that Woody Allen make an appearance at National Pigeon Day on Friday, June, 13th (details forthcoming) to make right the horrible disservice he’s responsible for by causing our feral pigeon population which are being persecuted and annihilated because of cavalier remarks like “rats with wings” (Stardust Memories, 1980, written and directed by Woody Allen) …. For nearly 30 years this ‘racial slur” has and is presently being perpetuated by the media who use it to ridicule and degrade pigeons so that they have no respect in our society and, therefore, are treated with contempt and hatred by the general public.
To date, Mr. Allen has been a no-show.
Of course, New York City officials are also a prime target for many activists. When Council Speaker Christine Quinn called pigeons “flying rats,” the Urban Wildlife Coalition’s Johana Clearfield wrote to inform Quinn that “flying rat” is an “epithet…much like the n-word.” That bad? Really?
Mayor Michael Bloomberg played both sides of the fence when he let City Councilman Simcha Felder take the heat for a proposed feeding ban, but later told the press, “We do have a lot of pigeons and they do tend to foul a lot of our areas, and people would be better off not feeding the pigeons.” Even he seemed wary of inciting a bird-loving mob.
Felder claimed the ban was aimed at minimizing pigeon excrement, which damages city infrastructure with its ammonia and uric acid. Each pigeon drops an average of 25 pounds of guano per year. That’s a lot of crap. But the bird boosters weren’t buying his story. They staged a protest at City Hall, carrying signs that said things like, “Have you known anybody killed by a pigeon?”No, I’ve never know someone killed by a pigeon. (I also don’t know anyone killed by a feral cockroach. But they’re not cute enough to get their own day.) Demonstrators also argued that pigeons teach children an appreciation for living things. Apparently, the eight million people living here don’t count.
And when City Council member James Oddo suggested birth control, a move approved by PETA and the Humane Society, to clean up the Staten Island Ferry terminal and keep poop from raining down from the ceiling panels, the pigeons groupies came down on him like, well, poop from a ceiling. Joanna Tierno, moderator of a pigeon Internet site, told a reporter:
It’s just a horrible idea just to kill off all these innocent animals, and for what reason? You can’t help but remember the Holocaust. Jews were killed because people didn’t want to look at them anymore.
Wow. Those pigeons are looking more intelligent all the time.