Pigeons Ride the Subway!(NYT Link)
March 5, 2002 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Pigeons Ride the Subway!(NYT Link) This reporter found truth behind a New York urban legend, train riding pigeons. Any weird stories of urbanized animals in your area?
posted by wsfinkel (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
*BF Skinner cries in heaven*
posted by maudlin at 7:19 AM on March 5, 2002

Here in Japan, there are wild monkeys in the mountains that make up 80% of the landscape. In rural tourist areas, they are human-savvy. I have seen them work in pairs, one doing the distraction while the other one plunders rucksacks and such. Saw one grab a can of coffee, jump up on the roof of the snackstand, and open and drink it. That was in Minoh, in rural Osaka. The monkeys there are legendary. That's not the same as urbanized, but to open a can and drink that awful sugary stuff.

I've got a picture close at hand, somewheres, I'll see if I can find it and post a link.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:25 AM on March 5, 2002

If BF Skinner is in heaven, I am going to cry.
posted by Ptrin at 7:30 AM on March 5, 2002

Happens on the London Underground too - seen it most on the Circle / Hammersmith and City Line in West London. I was also in a train once on the Eastern part of the Central Line when a sparrow had got caught inside and was flying back and forth in the carriage getting progressively more agitated. It wasn't really feasible to try and catch it and thankfully it did eventually get out.
posted by kerplunk at 7:46 AM on March 5, 2002

Here in L.A., we have turbo-coiffed lunatic zombies driving around in beamers while yammering on cell phones. It's a fascinating phenomena to observe from above, but you don't want to get to close to them during mating season.
posted by bingo at 7:48 AM on March 5, 2002

At the mall where we most often shop, there are almost always a good half dozen or so sparrows and the occasional starling who have gotten inside the building and have made a fine life for themselves hanging out at the Food Court.
posted by briank at 7:56 AM on March 5, 2002

On the surface this pigeon thing sounds laughably absurd, but upon reflection it makes perfect sense. Birds are creatures of habit. Just as some autistic children need routine to feel safe and secure in daily life, so too would pigeons be attracted to traincars that come and go relatively the same time every day, with bells and whistles marking their coming and going. They're unable to fully understand how it all works, but they observe humans going in and out of them, and most birds figure out that where there are a lot of humans, there's usually food left behind.

Animals are trained by routine, be they pet or wild. You coax the animal into doing what you want it to do and then condition it with reward when it accomplishes the task. It makes sense that wild birds would over time become accustomed to the relatively consistent train schedules, and other daily routines of a metropolitan city.

Here in Texas I can only think of one animal oriented "urban legend" of sorts, if one might call it that. In my neighborhood, there's a pack of wild, once domesticated dogs who travel sometimes in packs: like a street gang. Most often they are in groups of three or four, but on occasion I've seen as many as a dozen of them together at a time - especially very early in the morning or at dusk. There's a creek nearby where they seem to congregate. They're a bunch of strays; either runaways, or mutts who have been abandoned by their owners. Their anthropomorphic behavior is unsettling. When alone a stray is easily startled but as a group they become much more rowdy, adventurous and daring.

Downtown Dallas pigeons are dumber than clocks.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:58 AM on March 5, 2002

my train was held up after a stretch of Giraffes were seen galloping down the tube between St Johns Wood and Baker Street - they were never found...
posted by monkeyJuice at 8:05 AM on March 5, 2002

i love this picture of a coyote on the portland MAX light rail train. (via robotwidom)
posted by lescour at 8:07 AM on March 5, 2002

I don't know if they actually get on the buses, but you cannot get away from the pigeons in our scenic New York Port Authority Bus Terminal. It's kind of scary when they fly at you all at once, as pigeons are wont to do.
posted by ltracey at 8:16 AM on March 5, 2002

At my parents house in New Delhi, we have peacocks that fly across the road to our verandah in the evenings, some will allow you to feed them. They come less now compared to when I was a child, the road between the house and the deer park (yes deer too) where they live has become a bus route and I think the sound of the buses scares them from crossing...I really miss listening to their cries in the evenings while we drank tea on the verandah, really plaintive cries...
posted by bittennails at 8:27 AM on March 5, 2002

kerplunk: I've seen the sparrow thing too. Think we were on the same carriage? Pigeons are old news. They hop on at one stop, hop off the next. You're right about that line, though: thinking back, that's where I've seen it most ... wonder if that's a particularly clever population of pigeons? Spooky.
posted by walrus at 8:31 AM on March 5, 2002

At my parents house in New Delhi, we have peacocks that fly across the road to our verandah in the evenings...

That is the most beautiful thing I've ever read. I am just going to sit here in the grey Seattle morning and think about that with my eyes shut.
posted by Hildago at 8:35 AM on March 5, 2002

Their anthropomorphic behavior is unsettling. When alone a stray is easily startled but as a group they become much more rowdy, adventurous and daring.

it's not really weird behavior, dogs are social, people usually just keep them alone.
posted by rhyax at 9:01 AM on March 5, 2002

In Banff, Alberta, I recently saw some elk strolling past the McDonald's on Main Street, part of a herd that winter in town, to the annoyance of residents.
posted by liam at 9:17 AM on March 5, 2002

I live in a fairly urbanized area. Still, there is a colony of a least 100 bats that comes pouring out from under the spanish tiles of the neighboring apartment every evening. Makes for an interesting sight at sunset on the balcony. And recently there has been a screech owl roosting in the pine trees right outside my bedroom window. I collected one of the pellets. Lots of little rodent bones. Kind of neat, if you are into natural history stuff.
posted by piskycritters at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2002

At my parents house in New Delhi, we have peacocks that fly across the road to our verandah in the evenings...

Although we don't have any in our neighborhood, semi-wild peacocks are pretty common in the Miami suburbs. A group of full-grown peacocks in the middle of a suburban yard is quite a sight. They often perch on the tops of houses and cars. This can get rather messy. And the males are LOUD, so they're not always the most welcome guests.

I read awhile back that some lady has taken to snatching neighborhood peacocks and holding them for ransom - offering to sell them back to residents for $50. So if someone tries to sell you a used peacock...

Lots of other interesting animal life. Herds of free range iguanas, and wild parrots. The macaws from Parrot Jungle are free to fly wherever they choose. Most mornings, there are 3 or 4 blue and gold macaws flying around near my office.
posted by groundhog at 10:09 AM on March 5, 2002

We have wild parrots here in San Francisco as well.
posted by culberjo at 10:21 AM on March 5, 2002

tax payer money is paying for free riders ??? oh the shock !!! Congressional hearing any one ?
posted by adnanbwp at 11:02 AM on March 5, 2002

We have a variety of very large turkeys wandering around here in semi-northern NJ. Since we live in the suburb capital of the world, we don't get much exotic fauna, and turkeys can qualify as hot stuff. They're pretty cool looking, too, and as a dinosaur buff, I can't get enough of them.

Well, I couldn't get enough of them.

There's a lady in our neighborhood who feeds them. And, as a result, they've decided that this is their territory. Which means they defend it. Particularly my house. From me.

A cold winter morning, coming back from handing out flyers for a book collection, I encounter a clot of automobiles on the street in front of my house. As I get closer, I realize that there are the turkeys, in the middle of the street, attempting to intimidate the cars. I try to get inside the house, hoping to get the camera and capture this priceless moment in film. But the turkeys don't seem to like the idea. They begin coming after me.

Lets just say I don't like turkeys so much anymore.
posted by Ptrin at 11:19 AM on March 5, 2002

This is just the MTA's latest pathetic attempt to increase ridership.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:53 AM on March 5, 2002

Ptrin -- don't feel alone. There was a news story a few months ago about a mailman in one of the Boston suburbs who was prevented from completing his appointed rounds by a wild turkey. His co-workers laughed at him until he brought them along for the route and the bird went after them, too.
posted by briank at 12:02 PM on March 5, 2002

I got chased by a horrible, gobbling turkey near my house once; as a result I have relished eating them at Thanksgiving ever since.

As for the pigeons, I can confirm that they not only ride the A train locally in the Rockaways, but they come to Manhattan for the cosmopolitan nightlife as well. Last night I was waiting for the C train at 59th street here in New York, and two pigeons were waddling around the platform, over on the A train side. The C train came before the A, so I don't know if they took it. This was at about 10 PM. They were probably drunk.
posted by evanizer at 3:20 PM on March 5, 2002

posted by rodii at 3:25 PM on March 5, 2002

Saw one grab a can of coffee...

Can of coffee?

posted by Neale at 3:30 PM on March 5, 2002

Lopburi Thailand is overrun with monkeys. Every year the locals hold a banquet for them. They've even been known to board trains occasionally.
posted by chinstrap at 3:54 PM on March 5, 2002

Tangent: Anyone with more than 72 hours in NYC should take the A Train up to the Cloisters, then all the way down to the other end (or perhaps stop before going to JFK). NYC has real, sandy white (or almost white) beaches, with waves and salt air. It's quite a treat for $1.50
posted by ParisParamus at 7:47 PM on March 5, 2002

"Saw one grab a can of coffee..."

Can of coffee? WTF?

In much of Asia, it's popular for sugary coffee (like iced coffee) to be canned, like in those juice cans you'd find in the US.
posted by jennak at 11:17 AM on March 6, 2002

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