Recently I was standing on a sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan, talking on my phone near the HOPE sculpture, when a gust of wind picked up what appeared to be at least fifty pigeon feather pieces. They swirled around my feet before moving along, probably over to that open-air food cart, I thought.
Maybe this is normal, all the pigeon feathers, and I just never noticed them before? My brain moved on to other matters, and I forgot about it. But when I got upstairs and looked out my office windows, far above where I was just standing, I saw more pigeon feathers, this time dancing in the air, many floors above the sidewalk. Maybe it's pigeon molting season?
This swirly twirly sea of feathers was abundant, however, and it showed no signs of stopping. I quietly filmed the scene from my desk; "No point in mentioning these pigeon feathers, I thought. Poor bastards will see them soon enough."
I emailed my main bird man over at the American Museum of Natural History, Paul Sweet in the Department of Ornithology, and asked him what was up. And guess what, Paul was seeing this stuff up at the AMNH, too! This briefly led me to believe a SyFy-esque weather event was upon us, but that was incorrect. Either way, chances are pretty good that one of us inhaled a pigeon feather particle that week.
Okay, so what's going on? Paul told me, "I've had the same thing outside my window at the museum. There is a Peregrine up there somewhere plucking a pigeon." So it's not just molting? "They do molt but with the sheer number of feathers it has to be a raptor. Could be a Red-tailed Hawk, but given the location almost certainly a Peregrine Falcon... I think there is a pair that nests in Midtown, but they could still have kids around so could be more. They probably kill several pigeons per day and have favored plucking sites."
Holy shit, pigeon massacre. I let everyone within earshot know that what we were witnessing was death.
Fun fact: Richie's falcon in The Royal Tenenbaums, Mordecai, was played by two falcons (for close-up shots) and a hawk (for in-flight scenes).