by Michael Dymmoch
You can’t really dish dirt about Chicago without mentioning our unofficial city bird. They’re quintessential city residents—smart (as birds go), adaptable, omnivorous.
Maybe there are huge flocks of them in parts of the city I don’t often visit, but they don’t seem as numerous as when I was in college. Maybe because the city’s Official Bird, the peregrine falcon is keeping them in check. They’re still ubiquitous as rats, though, and they’re frequently referred to as rats with feathers.
I usually encounter them on El platforms in the Loop—in spite of the spiky plastic strips the CTA installed to keep them from roosting above waiting passengers. As long as they can roost somewhere on the El structures and until all CTA passengers are housebroken—and stop dropping their trash on the platforms—there will be pigeons up there. Like muggers, they go where the loot is. Like panhandlers, they keep coming back if you feed them. Pigeons have the same kind of street smarts.
The parking structure at the Cook County Criminal Court House has a small population because it provides housing and free lunch. Visitors drop trash in the garage and along California Boulevard where the lunch wagons park. I hope the food is healthier for people than pigeons, because the birds at 26th and Cal do not seem to be thriving. The few pigeons in my neighborhood look pretty sickly, too, but that may be because they aren’t well fed.
No question pigeons are a nuisance. Probably a health hazard as well. Most people would be happy to see them vanish altogether. But then, what would our official bird eat?
And when a flock takes flight and wheels over the cityscape, they’re breathtaking.
PS I was going to include a picture of a flock of pigeons free-wheeling over an interesting building on the near west side, but it's still inside my camera. My old fashioned film camera. If I ever finish the roll (and if the picture turns ou) maybe I'll include it in a future blog on neat places to commit murder in Chicago. Meanwhile, if you go outside in the city and look around, you'll probably see a flock of pigeons. And if you want to see them flying, just watch them a while.