NYC photographer: Pigeons get no respect

Andrew Garn stood with his dog, Platypus, in Stuyvesant Square Park Tuesday afternoon and summoned a flock of pigeons.

"Pigeons were around growing up," Garn said, "but I never really paid them much mind, to tell the truth."

A lifelong New Yorker, Garn, like so many in this city, spent decades engaged with the pigeon in a sort of oblivious coexistence.

"Then I sort of had a bird epiphany," he said.

Garn, a photographer, noticed the pigeon's coloring, visited a friend's coop to conduct a flight study, and later received certification as a pigeon rehabilitator.

"And I just started studying and photographing them and it just went on and on," he said.

The result of that slippery slope of birdom Garn released on Tuesday—The New York Pigeon: Behind the Feathers, a book displaying 10 years of Garn's pigeon photographs.

"I do feel like this book is sort of a testament to pigeons and it's a public relations vehicle for pigeons," he said.

The pigeons we see every day in this city (and most every other) are technically neither wild nor domesticated. They're a feral hybrid, giving their feathers a diversity of colors and patterns.

"Probably one of the strongest connections to humans of any bird," Garn said, adding that in a cage, a domesticated pigeon might live 20 years.

"A street pigeon lives on average one to three years," Garn said.

It's hard out here for a pigeon, and Garn thinks we ought to show some sympathy for this misunderstood creature more often compared to a rat than any of its fellow birds.

"Getting hit by cars, poisoning, lead poisoning, getting eaten by hawks," Garn said. "I'd say a pigeon gets picked off by a hawk once a week here."

Garn plans to donate 50 percent of his book's proceeds to the Upper West Side's Wild Bird Fund and hopes his pictures inspire New Yorkers to consider the pigeon.

"They deserve respect, I think," Garn said.