Category Archives: Notes

Some thoughts: pigeons, sparrows and buses

by Rafael Silva do Nascimento

This post is just a note about something I have been witnessing more frequently in my daily life. I use to wait for the bus at a terminal attached to a subway station in the south of the city. As a lover of animals, I always have my attention caught by any species occurring in this chaotic surrounding that makes a city, mainly birds, which are the class that concentrates most of my interest.

Pigeon on Ipiranga

A rock pigeon that I photographed at the garden of Museu Paulista of University of São Paulo. I used to go there more often to see the birds.

During the day I use to see, near the place I work, kiskadees (Pitangus sulphuratus), rufous-bellied thrushes (Turdus rufiventris), rufous horneros (Furnarius rufus), plain parakeets (Brotogeris tirica), swallows, hummingbirds and, of course, pigeons (Columba livia) and sparrows (Passer domesticus). And those last two are the focus of this post. A bus terminal is a naturally crowded and busy place, even more if attached to a subway station. And at the time I return home, this crowd increases drastically. And a place with a high flow of people demands places to sell food. And a high flow of people and food means a filthy mess, and that attracts animals that feed on that mess, something quite predictable. It’s amazing how human beings, used to this automatic daily life where everything has to be quick, sometimes pass, without noticing, over the birds that feed on all this filth. Yes, they transmit diseases, but they are living beings after all. And blaming the animals for being there is ironic, since Man himself disseminated them from the Old World during his transcontinental comings and goings.

Well, returning to the focus: the animals ended up getting used to such an environment and not being intimidated with the presence of humans, associating them to an easy source of food. However, the birds don’t seem to get intimidated by the vehicles either, and that’s their biggest danger in places like that. Today I watched an old lady who wildly threw cheese breads to the pigeons. And since I was sitting next to her, a flock of them (thirteen birds, I counted them) was surrounding me. And this happened on a platform with several people in a hurry that eventually kick the pigeons and move their food to the street. And in the dispute between pigeons and even sparrows that don’t seem to fear the larger pigeons (which they eventually attack), the vehicles arrive and end up crushing an unaware bird that preferred to remain disputing a piece of snack rather than flying away to ensure a longer stay among the living ones. In the same day I saw a pigeon being crushed and another one having its tail trapped by the wheels of a bus (but this once escaped). Today I saw some daring sparrows carrying pieces of food almost as big as themselves to the cover of the platform, and a small chick that was cuddled in the middle of the street, bathed by the evening sun, until a bus came, whose second pair of wheels the sparrow wasn’t able to escape from. Even if they are considered plagues and that there’s a need to control their population to avoid the lack of hygiene and proliferation of diseases, it’s sad to witness so frequently the death of those animals, which is the result of a poor planning and management of the environment created by men.

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