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Where are all the dead pigeons?

Dear Cecil:

Where do pigeons go to die? I've only seen maybe two dead pigeons in my life. Considering how many there are, the streets should be littered with them. Is there a pigeon graveyard?

Ken Ellyson, Dallas; similarly from Bobbie Warshau, Evanston, Illinois and Betty Pryde, Novato, California

Illustration by Slug Signorino

Cecil replies:

What is this? Just a few years ago everybody wanted to know where the baby pigeons were. Now all I get is letters asking what’s become of the dead ones. I blame it on the cults.

You don’t see many dead city pigeons for a couple of reasons. The first is that scavengers make pretty quick work of them. Insects alone can reduce a deceased pigeon to a heap of feathers and bones in a week or two. Rats, dogs, or other animals may drag the carcass off into some secret corner for a late snack. City sanitation crews occasionally stir themselves to scoop up a couple.

The other reason you don’t see dead pigeons is that old and feeble ones usually hole up in some out-of-the-way place so they won’t be seen by predators. Nooks and crannies in and around buildings are always popular, but I’d say the pigeons’ favorite spot is the ironwork underneath viaducts. I recently inspected one near the office of the newspaper that publishes my column. I found the surrounding area littered with decaying remains. Mostly these were former editors sleeping it off. However, there were a bunch of dead pigeons, too. Naturally, I paused for a moment of respectful silence. For the pigeons. I mean, pigeons and editors both do the icky on the stuff you cherish most. But at least the pigeons don’t think, “Wow, now it sings.”

Reports from the field

Dear Cecil:

I thought you might want to know that there is indeed a pigeon graveyard in Dallas. I have had the opportunity, if not the pleasure, of touring the old American Beauty flour mill on South Ervay Street. After having been abandoned for 15 years, the building now houses the remains of several hundred pigeons, in every stage of decay from recently deceased to crumbling skeletons.

As an interesting aside, the vast majority died flat on their backs with their wings spread and their little feet in the air.

— Janice-Mary Cunningham, Dallas

Cecil replies:

Hmm, just like the cockroaches we reported on in The Straight Dope, pages 24-25. As soon as I get that big NSF grant, we’ll get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Cecil Adams

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