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Put your hands up and back away from the breadcrumbs. Feeding New York City pigeons could soon be banned under a proposal to thin the flocks of the birds sometimes referred to as "rats with wings."
City Councilman Simcha Felder said Monday that he would introduce legislation to ban pigeon feeding and fine those caught flouting the ban $1,000.
The ammonia and uric acids in pigeon droppings can rust steel and corrode infrastructure, he wrote in a report outlining potential solutions to the pigeon problem. A pigeon excretes an average 25 pounds of droppings per year, he said.
"We have pigeons doing whatever they do all over the city without anyone trying to stop it," Felder said outside City Hall. "If people like pigeons, take them into their homes, feed pigeons in your house and let them crap all over the place in your living rooms."
In his report, Felder recommends looking at how other cities have gone about reducing their pigeon populations.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone banned pigeon feeding in Trafalgar Square, closed down the official feed vendors there and brought in hawks to scare away pigeons that remained. Los Angeles has begun a trial use of pigeon birth control. And Basel, Switzerland, helped reduce its pigeon population by stealing the birds' eggs and replacing them with fakes, fooling them.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not endorsed a feeding ban but said at a news conference Monday that he thought the city's pigeons were a problem.
"We do have a lot of pigeons and they do tend to foul a lot of our areas, and people would be better off not feeding the pigeons," he said.
Attempts to shoo pigeons from parts of the city have had mixed results. Electrifying roosting areas under elevated subway tracks has had some success, but noise deterrents - using recordings of hawks and other predators - haven't worked as well because New York City pigeons appear to be unfazed by noise.
An attempt to use hawks in Manhattan's Bryant Park a few years ago was scrapped after a hawk attacked a pet Chihuahua.
European settlers brought pigeons to North America as domesticated birds; the animals that rule New York City are their wild descendants.
Despite their reputation as disease carriers, the city Health Department does not consider pigeons a major danger and says the average New Yorker is not at risk of catching anything from the birds or their droppings.
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