NEW YORK.Â This city, home to the worldâ€™s largest urban population of pigeons, has encountered a new problem in its continuing effort to get cars off the streets and their passengers on their feet.Â â€œMost of our pedestrians are pigeons,â€ says New Yorkâ€™s â€œPigeon Czarâ€ Aaron Kalkstein.Â â€œI donâ€™t know if their wings or tired or what, but they apparently prefer to walk, not fly.â€
As a result, New Yorkâ€™s miles of pavement, hailed in songs such as â€œThe Sidewalks of New Yorkâ€ and books such as Alfred Kazinâ€™s â€œA Walker in the City,â€ have become increasingly congested asÂ pigeons, humans and pets share the cityâ€™s concrete.Â
Pigeons had historically flown in New York, as most memorably depicted in the Marlon Brando-Elia Kazan film â€œOn the Waterfront,â€ but baggage fees as high as $15 imposed by airlines haveÂ persuaded many pigeons that travel by foot makesÂ more sense, at least for now.
Marlon Brando, pigeon, Eva Marie Saint
â€œWe could afford to fly, but it was a nice day, so we said â€˜What the hell,â€™â€ says Ira Pigeon of QueensÂ on a sunny afternoon recently as he strolled through Flushing.Â â€œHe could use the exercise,â€ said his wife Sarah, as she poked at a hot dog roll she found in the gutter.
Corncrake:Â Now playing in Chekhovâ€™s â€œAgafya.â€
Other birds capable of flight who prefer to walk include wild turkeys, which fly only under duress, and corncrakes, which fly only to cross bodies of water, as explained in the Chekhov short story â€œAgafya.â€Â With many airlines adding fuel surcharges, flying has become increasingly expensive, say experts on pigeons, which are referred to technically by the term columbidae.Â â€œWoody Allen famously referred to pigeons as â€˜flying rats,â€™â€ says noted pigeon expert and movie critic Lyle Searles.Â â€œThatâ€™s a false analogy, because you wouldnâ€™t call rats â€˜walking pigeons.â€™â€
While pigeons have been largely unaffected by the rise in gasoline prices, media analysts say mention of this critical issue is nonetheless obligatory in any fake news story between now and election day.Â
â€œYou need to address the things that are uppermost in peopleâ€™s minds,â€ says Phil Domke, a visting professor at the Columbia School of Journalism on the cityâ€™s Upper West side.Â â€œLike whoâ€™s the victim of a greater injustice, Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes.â€