Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Sex Life of the City Pigeon.

"Have you ever seen birds having sex?" my old roommate asked me.

"Only duck-rape," I said. I used to live next to a duck pond, and in the spring it would get ugly.

"When birds have sex--consensual sex--they get really into it," Roomie said. "It's not like dogs that just hump. There's lots of flapping and squawking. It's a lot like people sex."

I miss Roomie sometimes.

And I thought of that conversation today, watching city pigeons. They live such a marginal existence--scrounging for trash, nesting where they can find a ledge or nook in the concrete, always running from people and dogs and cats, always fighting with the seagulls and crows. It's a rough life. Look at their feet; a city pigeon will more often than not be missing a toe or have an infection or some other deformity.

But there are always more pigeons. Somehow, up in those nooks and ledges, the pigeons are mating. Their lives are full of hunger, fear, and pain, and yet they find the time and the place for sex. Nor is it entirely unromantic; they have a courting ritual and both parents help to warm and guard the eggs. Pigeons huddle together in the cold, gray, hostile, nacho-crumbs-if-you're-lucky world, and they make love. Everywhere. All the time.

Is it a comfort for them? Is it just an instinctive drive? Do they merely scratch an itch, or do they feel pleasure? Do they feel love? Do they--in their limited, pigeony sort of way--forget the world for an instant?

It's endlessly inspiring to me that sex is everywhere. The best goddamn thing I know in the world, and it's happening under our feet and over our heads and all around us. In every crevice and corner of the world there's life, and where there's life there's sex. I can only hope and speculate that where there's sex there's pleasure. Maybe not explosive pleasure, maybe not exquisite sensuality--but even pigeons have to feel a little good when they fuck.

I may not always feel this way when I'm not having sex or I'm having crappy sex or my life in general is crappy, but I am living in a world of pleasure, and that's the most beautiful thing I can imagine.


  1. Nnnyeah, that's just another way my reality doesn't appear to resemble that of anyone I see on the interwebs. Maybe I need to move.

    Where I live, there are plenty of pigeons, but no cats, crows, or seagulls. There are dogs, but mostly little ones that people keep indoors and carry them around on the occasion they're taken outside. Even the few larger ones which are leashed rather than carried seem well behaved, never chasing after a bird or squirrel.

    They don't seem to be afraid of people, aside from moving out of the way to avoid being stepped on. You can walk right by one and they'll usually act like they barely noticed. I don't think I've noticed any of them having damaged feet, though I admit I don't pay that much attention. They're also fat. Some of them so fat they can barely fly. There's plenty of junk left lying around for them to eat (a lot of restaurants, and people often eat outside) and at least a few people deliberately feed them on top of that.

    I have no idea where their nests are. The most obvious possible places are festooned with plastic anti-pigeon spikes. Considering that the fatter ones can barely get off the ground, some of them may not even have any. The pigeons around here are engaged in an orgy of gluttony and sloth, not lust.

  2. I completely agree with this, and it was beautifully put. :)

  3. If you haven't, read up on bonobos some day...

  4. I call miscategorized.

    File this under: "Holly Pervocracy Has A Beautiful Soul."

  5. If you're still wondering about the pigeons...

    I've seen my pet pigeons mating for what appears to be no reason other than bonding. I've also seen them doing it with the female on top. They have elaborate rituals, individual tastes for what works them up, highly complicated social behavior. They have friends, enemies, lovers.

    The behavior of my tame birds leads me to suspect that they get pleasure from sex. The birds masturbate. They also form same-sex pairs. Most species of birds, if bonded to an owner, tend to exhibit pair behavior, attempts to mate and even in the case of females, egg laying. City pigeons have some ritualised behaviours involving driving mates to the nest, which can seem rather cruel...but at the same time I kind of wonder about that considering how much my pet pigeon enjoys play-fighting with me.

    A lot of animals have a lot more complicated sexualities than science has been ready to admit. That said, science is often influenced by terrible cultural opinion. It's kind of like how the victorians viewed sexual behavior in human women, only about ten thousand times worse because for some reason people seem to be squicked out by the idea that animals might have something that humans use to elevate their bloated egos with. :V