Cat among the pigeons

London is full of pigeons. It is their perfect environment and they occupy the city in unnatural numbers. Like many other urban animals, pigeons exploit the protection and sustenance the city offers. There is always food to be found, in bins, on the street after bars close or directly from the human hand (sometimes shared, sometimes stolen).

Natural cliff dwellers, city buildings provide the perfect nest sites for pigeons. There is plenty of space so there is little competition for the best nest sites and very few predators. Add to this the warmth and protection from adverse weather that tall buildings and human activity provides and you have the perfect habitat for pigeons.

Finding myself with some free time one day I began to stalk the pigeons. I chose an individual and followed it for as long as I could. When I lost it I would choose another and follow that pigeon instead. I followed as they bobbed along, pecking at cigarette butts and chewing gum on the pavement, as they flitted from bench to branch and back again. I watched them squabble over discarded chips and limp through a forest of commuters’ legs.

As I stalked the pigeons through London I realised I was moving differently to the other people in the street. They walked with purpose; fluidly and rhythmically at speed while I moved slowly, pausing, considering, stepping lightly. I viewed the city through hunters’ eyes, noticing details invisible to the rush of people around me. Aware of the sounds of birds, the smell of spices from an open window nearby and the feel of cobbles beneath my feet, my senses heightened, I moved like a cat across the city with no particular direction. Before long I was lost. It was wonderfully freeing. With no idea where I was I let my instincts lead me until I found the river and was back in familiar territory.

This time meandering through the streets of London allowed me to meditate on city life and our relationships with the animals we share it with (willingly or otherwise). Dundee is of course a lot smaller than London, however its proximity to open countryside as well as the sea allows for a huge diversity of life.

I began to question what exactly our relationships with other animals in the city are; how do we negotiate sharing city space with such diverse creatures? What problems arise from this close proximity? And what does it mean to be an Urban Animal?

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