Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are New Yorkers more moral than birds?

Posted signs notify New York humans of when an area is "newly seeded" but the New York birds neither require the notification nor abide by the request to "please keep off."

Rather, the New York birds and their occasional chipmunk companions seem well aware that this particular area of Washington Square Park abounds in grass seeds.  The birds must think these seeds are begging to be devoured before launching grassy lives.  And no laminated sign will stop these birds from gorging themselves on infant grass seeds.

Not only is there no stopping these birds, but a few New Yorkers even rewarded them with extra food.  

Our media critiques celebrities for living as though they are above the law but the debate over legal enforcement for birds rarely receives airtime.  Yet these birds clearly received ample reward for breaking the law of the Washington Square Park sign.

New grass seeds.  Chunks of pound cake.  Bits of chocolate chip cookies.  These birds had it made.  

Well . . . all except one bird.

One baby bird fell out his nest too soon.  Not yet able to fly, he wandered amongst the feasting birds, squawking for his mother.  Reminiscent of a children's book perhaps, but this tale likely did not end happily.

The baby bird, unintentionally breaking the law of the Washington Square Park sign, had a human advocate seeking to save not indict it.  An anonymous bird-loving New Yorker watched from the sidewalk nearby, scouting the sky for hawks.  

The bird-lover admitted to also rewarding the rule-breaking birds with extra food, hoping to lure the mother into this particular (forbidden) area.  He made no attempt to approach the baby bird, knowing that he must stay back to allow any mother's return. He intended to buy the baby time by guarding against predators.

The outcome?  Likely not positive.  The anonymous bird-lover had watched for quite some time with no success.  When I left for a meeting, the bird-lover continued to watch with decreasing hope, searching for a park employee to aid.  No mother had surfaced. No other birds took interest in anything but the grass seeds and pound cake.  The baby continued to wander.  I can only hope the mother had a rebellious streak and explored the area she was asked to "Please Keep Off."

So again we find the conclusion that rules are easier to write than to interpret or apply.  Many of these birds clearly ignored the sign, finding the "Newly Seeded Area" to be their own personal feasting ground.  Yet at least one bird attended the party by accident, likely resulting in its own demise.  The other birds, gorging themselves on illegal seeds, allowed one of their kind to suffer.  But at least one New Yorker tried to help, even if it seemed like he rewarded the other birds' bad behavior.

I wish I had a conclusion for you, but sadly it's not so cut and dry.  I'll never know what became of the baby bird, the anonymous bird-lover, or the outlaw birds.  I can only offer this brief reflection on the morality of birds and New Yorkers.  

So what do you say?  Will New York birds ever abide by our important laminated signs?  Are New Yorkers more moral than birds?  Was the anonymous bird-lover a Good Samaritan, a hopeless idealist, or simply crazy?  Are New York birds annoying, rebellious, or simply ignorant?


  1. there are always people - in the age of the internet - who can help. see http://www.nycprc.org - new york city pigeon rescue central.

  2. Thanks Cathryn! I'll be ready to pass on the info for the next pigeon crisis!