Friday, May 18, 2012

Where are all the Dead Pigeons?

John Metcalfe asks the burning question or our age -- why aren't cities full of dead pigeons? -- and finds out:

1) Most dead pigeons were killed by predators, like hawks and cats, and therefore got eaten.

2) Lots of scavengers, from rats to vultures to ants, love pigeon corpses, and make them disappear very quickly.

3) And then the part I find very interesting: animals don't like to die in the open. This is wild life control expert David Seerveld: "I've never watched a pigeon in its dying moments, but a lot of wild animals do choose to go somewhere to die naturally. They don't just plop in a street: They often just crawl under a building or into a tight space, because as they die they are vulnerable and don't necessarily want to get eaten alive in their last moments." Lewis Thomas once wrote an essay about this, "Death in the Open," which appeared in his bestselling Lives of a Cell. One line I remember is, "Who has ever seen dead birds, in the numbers necessary to account for the certainty of the death of all birds?" The impulse of sick or injured animals to seek out a protected, hidden space is very widespread, and it leads dying pigeons to hide themselves in nooks where you won't likely notice their corpses.

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