Paul, the Pigeon Man of Washington Square Park

elegant woman enjoys pigeons

Even dressed in white, passerby want to be part of Paul's pigeon party

Tough New Yorkers, who won’t wince at a speeding taxis or raving pedestrians, get the willies around pigeons. Not Paul the Pigeon Man. Actually he prefers to go by “the Bird Man” but the birds that have been covering him in Washington Square Park for the last nine years are pigeons.

I saw him for the first time today, an older, friendly man with bad teeth sitting on a bench with about 10 pigeons on his arms, shoulders and head. He was competing for attention with a crowd of NYU students in their underwear. And still people kept coming up to him, at first revolted by the thought of having pigeons on them because of some unknown disease.

Then they’d accept the peanuts Paul gives out. The pigeons realized Paul’s protection extended to the visitor, so they’d jump on the new person’s arms (they don’t do that anywhere else in the park).¬†Inevitably, the bird delighted the tourist, who would immediately demand that their friend take a picture of showcasing their new pigeons friends, preferably on their head.

Paul says he visits this flock of about 40 birds roughly six days a week. “They trust me,” he says. He feels guilty when he doesn’t. He knows some birds on sight, but only if they have a distinguishing mark or disfigurement (Hoppy has a club foot). He got interested in pigeons growing up in the Bronx, when old men had coops and carrier pigeons. He doesn’t bring injured birds home anymore, fearing he’ll get evicted from his rent-controlled apartment.

Getting New Yorkers and tourists to rethink pigeons is part of his mission. He likes to be in the park when kids get out of school in the afternoon. “Instead of throwing sticks at squirrels, I get them to feed the pigeons. And then they’re nice to animals,” Paul says. “And when they grow up, they’ll be nice to people.”

pelicanpuffinhummingbird Where to SEE WEIRD BIRDS (All the interesting birds: pelicans, puffins, prairie chickens, vultures, hummingbirds)


Related posts:


On the advice of a right whale, we have closed comments for this post. If you have something really important to say, email us and we'd be delighted to reopen it for you. (The whale is only trying to prevent spam comments.)