There are a few things that New Yorkers just take for granted as part of life in Gotham: Traffic is one. Noise—whether from the street outside or the neighbors upstairs—is another.
And so are swarming, fluttering, cooing, pecking hordes of grey-feathered 'sky rats'—or pigeons, as some insist on calling them. Sure, there are other nuisance birds that plague the area's human inhabitants, like territorial seagulls in waterfront neighborhoods and Canada geese that befoul lawns and golf greens further inland, but pigeons are among the most obnoxious of urban avians.
For the Birds
Pigeons have congregated on and around human dwellings for centuries—and for centuries, people have had to deal not only with the birds' mess, but with the health hazards associated with it.
“Pigeons' fecal material carries numerous diseases,” says Arthur Katz, president of Knockout Pest Control in Uniondale, 40 of them, to be precise.
To make matters worse, “Pigeons are what we call ‘dirty nesters,'" says Rebecca Fyffe, a wildlife educator with the Chicago-based Wildlife Control Policy Institute. "They spackle their nests with their own droppings, so when they flap their wings and climb around, it forms a dust. All birds carry salmonella in their droppings, but it is particularly common among pigeons, so that's really a big concern. Histoplasmosis is a fungal lung disease that occurs in bird roosts. If birds have lived in an [enclosed area], and someone has to go up there to do work once those spores have had a chance to really grow and propagate, they can become infected [from breathing the airborne particles], even if they only breathe in a few spores.”