It starts around 6:30 a.m—“incessant, almost guttural cooing,” according to Michael Kelly, a 33-year-old opera singer who lives on a usually quiet stretch of 100th Street on the Upper West Side. He’s battling jet lag after a trip to Europe, but every morning for the last couple of weeks, Kelly is wrenched from sleep not by a blaring car alarm or construction noise on the street below, but jackhammering of a different kind: pigeons fucking.
“When is the pigeon sex outside my window going to stop so I can sleep past 7?” Kelly wondered in a recent Facebook status. “They’re just going at it,” he lamented later by phone, “one pigeon mounting another.”
Amused friends blew up the comments: “Pigeons. Always thinking with their peckers,” one cracked. “Ain’t no orgy like a pigeon orgy, ‘cause a pigeon orgy don’t stop,” quipped another.
But amid the classic rap references came proof the struggle is real: “There’s pigeon sex outside my window too,” Scott Sobol, 37, a real estate agent who lives in Hell’s Kitchen, commented.
“I’ll be sitting at my desk looking out my window and I’ll just see two pigeons totally doing it on the roof next door,” he told me. “Sometimes a third will come up and want to get in the mix, and it’s like being at the club.”
Summer is high season for pigeon sex—and it’s popping off all over New York City right now. Pigeons, which mate for life, breed year round, but speed up in spring and summertime because the warmer temperatures are friendly to their young’s survival.
Pigeons, like humans, are also prone to cockblocking, according to one of the 40,000 pigeon sex videos (pigeon porn?) on YouTube, which notes: “Sometimes the other birds get jealous when two pigeons are fooling around.” Although it’s actually cloaca-blocking, as both male and female pigeons have cloacas, sexual cavities they wedge together during the deed.
“We call it a cloacal kiss,” says Dr. Charles Walcott, a professor emeritus at Cornell University who studied homing pigeons for three decades as the former head of the school’s Ornithology Lab. “The male will stand on the back of the female, both of them will move their tail out the way and they will touch their genitals together. It’s really very quick.”
Mice and roaches get all the infamy, but procreating pigeons are a down-low woe for New Yorkers—a scourge on sleep, an assault on the eyes, and a prolific source of poop, which can corrode window sills, contaminate air conditioners (the underside of window units are popular pigeon fuck dens), and carry up to 60 diseases, including histoplasmosis, a nasty respiratory infection. Pigeon-related complaints to 311 also peak during spring and summer, according to data from the mayor’s office. Last year the number of calls to 311 lamenting “unsanitary pigeon conditions” (mostly “pigeon waste”) on window ledges, sidewalks and building exteriors peaked between April and August.
Dave Kane, owner of Bye Bye Birdie, a pest bird-proofing company in Flatiron says, “I definitely start getting more calls in the summertime.”
In some cases, a summer of pigeon sex means birds are getting more action than their human neighbors.
“It was a mood-killer for me and my fiancé to have pigeons doing it right behind our heads,” confessed Kelly Granito, 28, a researcher at a non-profit and a daily witness to pigeon mating before recently moving units with her Upper West Side building. “They were constantly fucking in a flower box left by an old tenant.”
Anna Breslaw, a freelance writer in the East Village, says summer is prime time for pigeons to do it in her backyard, then leave their droppings in their wake. And then there’s the cooing. “It sounds like a woman with a low voice,” she says. “When I first moved in, I really thought it was people having sex.”
Before she recently moved to Alexandria, Virginia, Leslie Golden, a 32-year-old publishing associate, made feeble attempts to evict horny pigeons boning beneath her air conditioning unit on the Upper East Side. “I would open my window to frighten them away, but they didn’t scare easily,” she recalled. “I saw missionary, from-behind, 69’ing—but because it was the Upper East Side, it was mostly missionary.”
Pigeon sex was entertaining for Golden—until it wasn’t. During a bed bug breakout at her office, her husband woke up with bites, prompting a full-scale fumigation of the apartment. But an exterminator later told her, in light of the pigeons roosting under her AC, that they could have been pigeon mite bites. “What do we expect,” she lamented, “from the same birds who eat throw-up the morning after Santa Con?”
Golden never logged a complaint to her landlord, 311, or a private pigeon-proofer. But Kane is quick to note that for those who do call him for help; he doesn’t kill birds, he just relocates them—by sealing off air conditioners, netting off windows, or affixing spikes to window ledges For bigger jobs, setting up feeders of pigeon birth control, called OvoControl (nicknamed Planned Pigeonhood), is an option. A 2007 report (“Curbing the Pigeon Conundrum”) by New York State Sen. Simcha Felder recommended implementing OvoControl, which prevents pigeon sperm and eggs from fertilizing, city-wide, following the lead of Los Angeles and smaller cities like St. Paul, Minnesota.
But even OvoControl CEO Erick Wolf admits he “wouldn’t even want to guess” at how many feeders or how many millions of dollars it would take to tackle New York’s porny pigeon masses (by some estimates, there’s a pigeon for each of the 8 million people here). For perspective, Wolf just gave a six-figure estimate to businesses on a 22-acre stretch of Waikiki, Hawaii; New York City occupies more than 190,000 acres.
The Mayor’s Office seems about on top of the pigeon sex pandemic as it can be: “Obviously we are concerned about any unsanitary condition,” Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Press Secretary Christopher Miller said in an email.
A completely free anti-pigeon tactic, Kane suggests, is opening your window shade, which is likely to scare pigeons away. Or simply plug your ears and have a little understanding while a pair of pigeons get theirs.
“Hey,” he laughed. “We’ve all been there.”
[Illustration by Tara Jacoby]