This afternoon I bought a loaf of bread and went to Chase Tower to feed the pigeons. Ever since I watched Home Alone 2 as a kid and saw the pigeon lady with her flock of feathered buddies, I have wanted to gain birds’ trust. I wondered what it would feel like to have that many creatures around you at once, and to completely let go of the constant nagging background concern of how others would judge my behavior if I unfettered my various whims and bizarre desires.
So today I said “fuck it, I’m feeding the birds,” and after lunch I got a loaf of cheap bread. I walked over to Chase Tower and spotted a choice pigeon candidate - a fat, confident, preening creature strutting along a lower level of the patio - and I descended the stone steps after my future best bird friend and plopped down next to a planter full of mums.
As soon as I got the bread out, the entire flock was crowding around the patio, although they kept about a two-foot radius from my feet. I started sprinkling crumbs closer and closer to my feet, until they began grazing my legs with their wings in their haste to chow down. If you’ve never been tickled by a half-dozen birds’ wings, it is an experience I would certainly recommend!
Then, as you can see in the video, I started leaving the bread on my lap while sitting still otherwise. It didn’t take them long to go after it, and they took to eating out of my hand just as naturally. They were very gentle with their beaks, although a few of them started getting a little grab-happy and pecking at my finger hoping for bread - but never so hard that it hurt or broke skin. Pretty soon they were treating me like part of their regular terrain, clamping onto the sleeve of my jacket, diving between my legs to snag a stray crumb before dashing away, and flapping their wings in each other’s faces and my own to fight for a prize spot on my knees. Even when I ran out of bread, a few of them scampered around my legs to snatch up the last microscopic crumbs, and one of them didn’t move even as I stood up to leave - rather, she (I decided she was named Selma, she was the color grey of Marge’s sister’s hair from the Simpsons) attempted to perch on my jeans and climb up my pantleg! (I like to think she didn’t want me to leave.) It was a delightful, spontaneous way to kill a half-hour of time, as you can tell from my own squeaky coos of joy (please excuse my absurd child voice, ha!), and I honestly didn’t care a lick about the strange gazes the Loop’s diligent workforce passers-by were giving me. A few folks offered up a smile, and one guy watched for the duration of his smoke break, but mostly I was thrilled that it was so effortless and pleasant to interact with a different species en masse.
Does this make me a weirdo? Probably. Do I care? Clearly not.