Monday, May 25, 2009

Birds in Paradise: Pigeons Share Similar Mating Process to Humans

New York Post
May 24, 2009

Love them or hate them, rock doves are surely New York's unofficial feathered mascot. To honor them on National Pigeon Day (June 13), the New York Bird Club and United Poultry Concerns will host an event from noon to 4 p.m. at Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, featuring an appearance by singer-songwriter Nellie McKay, among other attractions. But since sex sells, the sponsors might want to add a discussion on pigeon porn to the program. I, for one, wouldn't have to attend a demo -- the airshaft adjacent to my apartment is a veritable lovers' lane for pigeons.

Their cooing is more than just ordinary urban background noise: It's proof that pigeons have more in common with us humans than we might think, especially in the mating department.

Rita McMahon, who rescues birds in distress and runs the Wild Bird Fund, concurs. But while human females won't marry a guy after just one pass or memorable meal -- especially if he throws up on the date -- female pigeons will. After initial coos, the male regurgitates his meal into the female's beak during a ritual called "billing."

As is often the case with humans, a female pigeon's sex drive is higher than a male's. "Some of the ladies are very horny, and will begin the mating process again immediately after sex," McMahon says.

But perhaps they're just worried the male might leave them. Because while most pigeons are renowned for their monogamy, there are exceptions. "Males will divorce a female if she's infertile," McMahon allows.

Before, I viewed the feathered occupants of that dark, gloomy airshaft as live entertainment for my cats. Now I realize that what I have is an enlightening window into the stimulating sex lives of pigeons. If only I could get past the fact that they relentlessly use my air conditioner as a litter box.


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