Pigeons at Play

Columns | Vienna Review | April 2011

Pigeons seem to adore our terrace. My housemate’s favorite sport is to chase them away with an air pistol – which I caught her doing this morning. I prefer to watch them. I must admit they are not one of those glorious birds that even frozen in place take your breath away. They are plump and plain, and not that smart – still I have discovered that they are one of the few species that can distinguish between a mirror image and reality, and with them right at my window, they are somehow appealing to my voyeuristic appetite.

In the chilly, gray late-winter days, our terrace would be even gloomier without these faithful visitors. I feel we are somehow obliged to share it with them, and to me it’s more of an honor than a torture. Now that they have been here every day for a number of years, it simply became their property as much as ours.

What I like best is the ability to follow the routines of their daily life, their flirting games and chasing around the green wood-frame pergola draped in climbing plants. It’s our little forest, and the burble of our guests the pigeons gives it a kind of picturesque and convivial note. To me, anyway. The saddest thing, though, is that I cannot tell them apart. I can’t honestly say, ‘Oh, that’s my favorite!’ Pigeons all look alike to me (except the white ones) and it’s almost impossible to distinguish the new-comers from the old ones.

While working on a paper the other day, I spotted two pigeons in the farther corner of the terrace… pecking and pushing – in a kind of wrestling-like process that I assumed stands for showing affection in their dictionary. I watched, and for a moment, I wished I were one of them, careless in life and love, able to meet and mate and simply fly away.

I smiled wistfully: The pigeons would have to do their wrestling-dance without me, and with regret, I turned back to reality and my approaching deadline.

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