The Trafalgar Square pigeons are really going now.
February 8, 2001 7:16 AM   Subscribe

The Trafalgar Square pigeons are really going now. Bernard Rayner, the last Trafalgar Square birdseed-seller, has settled for a cash payment from the city of London and closed down forever, thus ending a long tradition of feeding and encouraging 10,000 statue-bombarding "rats with wings" to befoul one of London's best outdoor gathering places. Not everyone is happy about this.
posted by pracowity (15 comments total)
I think this is upsetting, but mostly because that Mary Poppins song will lose any cultural currency it once had -- "feed the birds, tuppence a bag" etc.
posted by MarkAnd at 7:58 AM on February 8, 2001

I think you have set a record for the most links in a Metafilter post.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 7:59 AM on February 8, 2001

Wow. When I was last in London, I got a spectacular video shot of what had to be 400 pigeons flying in loops around the Trafalgar Christmas tree. (That is Trafalgar, isn't it, by Canada House, with the tree that's a memorial gift from Norway?) Maybe I'll rip the vid to MPEG and put up an online tribute to what was and will be no more.
posted by Dreama at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2001

Didn't the Mary Poppins song take place at St. Paul's? (Somehow I don't think London is going to run out of pigeons.)

Pigeon story: my father-in-law was the head of plant operations at this university. One of the problems they had to deal with was pigeons nesting on window ledges. When people would open their windows, little cascades of guano would drop into their offices, so people wanted those pigeons DEAD--only, since this is a university town, dead in a way that would involve any of them actually being killed, dontcha know. So my f-i-l's pigeon swat team acquired this stuff that was supposed to "disorient" pigeons and stop them from nesting. It turns out that the stuff was essentially a pigeon hallucinogen, so one day the campus was suddenly filled with pigeons zooming randomly all over the place, crashing into bikes, flying in circles (because they were trying to watch the trails coming off their wings, I think), rolling spastically on the ground, or just walking right up to people and staring at them. Random dive-bombings or dive-shittings. All kinds of weird, disturbing behavior. People started freaking out (shades of "The Birds") and pretty soon there was a full-fledged Pigeon Panic going on. It was cool.

(Now we just make them all wear diapers and everyone's fine. But we remember...)
posted by rodii at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2001

There's an obvious solution.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:28 AM on February 8, 2001

>Didn't the Mary Poppins song take place at St. Paul's?

All around the cathedral
The saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares..

posted by dnash at 8:59 AM on February 8, 2001

I've always loved Chicago's solution to this particular problem. Didn't know Chicago had a pigeon problem? That's cause they don't anymore.
What they did was introduce Falcons to the city. All the major skyscrapers had to install nest on their roofs and such, and these falcons were right at home. Their natural habit it cliffs, so this was great. Pigeons didn't last long at all, and the pigeon population fell done to a sustainable level. Likewise the falcons, you never see them around, and they're up there.
Species conflict, ra-ra!
posted by dcodea at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2001

I could cope with kestrels nesting on the roof of the National Gallery and St Martin's. I also remember when John Noakes of Blue Peter went up Nelson's Column with the cleaners, and had to drill the calcified, petrified shit from the stonework.

The sign of a flourishing urban ecosystem is the presence of birds other than pigeons. Time for a pigeon pie-fest, I think.
posted by holgate at 9:51 AM on February 8, 2001

What's so bad about pigeons, though? Are they really more disease ridden than any other bird? Or any other animal that has adapted so well to our wasteful habits by thriving where lots of people live and eating our trash?

I think pigeons are pretty.
posted by jennyb at 12:10 PM on February 8, 2001

when i went to london, one of my favorite things was spending an hour or so in Trafalger Square, watching this old man feeding pigeons. The pigeons would sit on his shoulder and hand and would let children pet them. I have several lovely photos of that man and his pigeons. I think that he will be very sad to see them go, as I am.
posted by elf_baby at 12:32 PM on February 8, 2001

I'm sure they'll all just migrate south. Venice will welcome them with open arms at Piazza San Marco. If anyone has been to both locations, Venice is far worse, as is Milan.
posted by igloo at 2:09 PM on February 8, 2001

jennyb, once you've had a pigeon shit on your head, it's hard to like them as much.
posted by rodii at 3:20 PM on February 8, 2001

dcodea: Falcons can be hell on chihuahuas. True story.
posted by argybarg at 6:05 PM on February 8, 2001

dcodea, that's a huge exaggeration of the Peregrine Restoration Project. Also, pigeon population reduction probably owes more to habitat exclusion than predators. Modern buildings are less hospitable to pigeons as a matter of course: fewer ledges, better maintenance (including pest control, i.e. nest removal), and roofs far from food sources like the street. Additionally, Chicago has been in full-scale war against rats for several years, and has virtually eliminated them in many areas. The two key elements of rat control are habitat elimination (e.g. cementing up cracks in buildings and sidewalks), and quick and complete trash removal. This latter probably also helps with pigeons.
posted by dhartung at 7:21 PM on February 8, 2001

Nothing lost.
posted by ojsbuddy at 10:35 PM on February 8, 2001

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