Pigeons are everywhere in Paris. The Common Wood-Pigeon is larger that the other two species possible in Paris—Stock and Rock Pigeon—and it’s the most numerous, by far. You can’t enjoy an open expanse of Parisian sky without seeing a handful of these avian porkers flying in any or all directions. Watch a tree for 5 minutes and chances are good that you’ll see a wood-pigeon using it’s vividly banded black and white tail to frantically decrease its speed before crashing into the foliage, displaying as much grace as a rhinoceros on a patch of ice.
My first morning in Paris, a Common Wood-Pigeon perched on the ledge outside our bedroom window and woke us with its incessant call. It has woken us every morning since.
Most horizontal surfaces in Paris are fortified with spikes to dissuade these birds from defecating on whatever lays beneath. Park your car underneath a tree in Paris for a couple days and the scene will look like an avian Beirut.
In July, Kristi and I were fortunate enough to gain a glimpse into the secretive nesting life of a pigeon on an adjacent window ledge just outside our apartment door. Early in the month, I noted an adult pigeon (both sexes look the same) setting down some twigs on the window sill. I admired its fortitude, considering the ledge was plastered with strips of pointy spikes, a.k.a “pigeon skewers.” Perhaps their landings are more precise than the crashing sounds of wings against leaves leads one to believe.
I wasn’t able to document every single day due to travel, but we did enjoying seeing the incubated eggs on July 14 with periodic observations until the second young fledged on August 7.
July 14, 2012
On two eggs, typical of pigeons.
July 22, 2012
After 17-19 days, the young have hatched.
July 31, 2012
After just nine days, the ledge is growing cramped with two adolescent birds. The last image shows one nestling begging for more “crop milk,” a fatty substance that adult pigeons produce in the chamber at the base of their esophagus (the “crop”). Pigeons, penguins, and flamingos produce this substance during the breeding season, which, in the case of pigeons, is higher in fat and protein than mammalian milk.
The adult sensed my presence and wasn’t willing to take an eye off of me, but I caught a better view of the exchange on August 7.
August 1, 2012
August 7, 2012
After its sibling fledged just an hour before, I watched the remaining youngster peer over the edge. After watching it pace for 15 minutes—trying to muster the courage to take its first flight—I went away for half an hour. When I returned, the nest was empty.