Parisians who illegally feed the French capital’s 80,000 pigeons are the subject of academic study.
At the beginning of November Paris hosted a symposium organized by Natureparif (the regional agency for nature and biodiversity in the Ile-de-France) and an interdisciplinary research group “pigeon in town”, directed by Anne-Caroline Prévot-Julliard, a researcher at the CNRS and the National Museum of Natural History.
One of those at the meeting, Véronique Servais, a professor of anthropology, studies the ‘feeders’, mostly older women, who look after the pigeons. She says they are regarded as ‘deviant’ and subject to abuse, even physical attacks.
“They have the feeling of being hunted. So they are more discreet, preferably out at night, in remote areas and doing the feeding quickly. But so far, they will not stop,” she says.
“Most often, they become feeders by chance, throwing a few crumbs, and then as and when they are aware of the sorry state of pigeons, they are caught in a trap: they can not disengage.”
Servais says that they regard it as a sort of “priesthood”, consuming time and money. For example, she says they find it impossible to go on holiday.
Pigeon feeding is illegal and offenders face €450 ($597) fines.
Brigitte Marquet, founder of the website ‘the Embassy of the pigeons’ says that the law has created a “civil war”:
“In Paris and elsewhere, many are quick to denounce bird conservationists to the police. The feeding should be managed by the city, it would calm things down. Instead, everything is done to encourage hatred.”
“These are perfectly normal people,” she insists.
The Paris Town Hall says:
“They mean well, but the feeders promote concentration and the overpopulation of pigeons, which causes damage to public and private property due to the accumulation of droppings.”
The authorities have put up pigeon coops across the city. The birds are encouraged to nest in them and once a week their eggs are sterilized.
However, some Parisians say these pigeon abortions are cruel.
Picture by AnnieGreenSprings