NEW YORK (PIX11) — The Big Apple’s ubiquitous bird is no fair-weather friend to New York City. That’s why New Yorkers looking up at birds flying south for the winter are out of luck if they’re hoping to see pigeons.
Pigeons are tough and stick in the five boroughs, even as the cold settles in, explained Sunny Corrao, a public engagement associate with the Parks Department Wildlife Unit. “Migration is really a dangerous and physically intensive process for birds, so if you have no reason to make that journey, why do it?” Corrao mused. “Stay in one place.”
Pigeons do prepare for the winter, even if it’s not by flying south. They eat more than usual in the fall and gain some weight for extra insulation, Corrao said. New York City still has plenty of food for them in the winter, though it can be a bit more challenging for the pigeons.
“Pigeons like to eat our crumbs,” Corrao said. “If there’s less people out, they’re going to have to travel a little further to find those resources.”
There are some natural resources pigeons can forage in the winter, Corrao said. They are often spotted patrolling the snows after storms, looking for food. They eat seeds from plants and wildflowers, along with berries on trees.
Staying warm is also a priority. Pigeons come with their own, built-in down coats. They have a layer of soft, fluffy feathers they use to trap in air bubbles and act as a layer of insulation, Corrao said. Their outer feathers also keep them dry.
“Pigeons are kind of colony, social animals so they’ll get together with their friends and roost together, kind of sharing body heat,” Corrao said.
The design of New York City also helps. Unlike suburban and rural areas, cities tend to retain heat. All of that combined means pigeons stick around year-round.
“They’re amazing survivors,” Corrao said, adding, “They’re really an amazing animal. The fact that they do survive these extreme temperatures from the extreme heat in the summer to the cold in the winter, they’re tough little birds.”