The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for March 14th, 2014

damnably irregular

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A curious bird, spotted in this dirty old part of the city, where the sun refuse to shine.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, a squamous thing wrapped in a dirty black raincoat was sashaying down sturdy Jackson Avenue and enjoying the glamorous environs of the Court Square section while anticipating, with palpitant heart, entering Queens Plaza when an odd avian seized all attentions. That squamous travesty, your humble narrator and faithful chronicler of all things odd here in the “Borough that Time Forgot,” accordingly stopped dead in his tracks and reached for the camera.

What, exactly, is up with those red and yellow feathers?

from wikipedia

Pigeons and doves constitute the bird clade Columbidae, that includes about 310 species. They are stout-bodied birds with short necks, and have short, slender bills with fleshy ceres. Doves feed on seeds, fruits, and plants. This family occurs worldwide, but the greatest variety is in the Indomalaya and Australasia ecozones.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It all started when a path was being negotiated through a herd of these so called ferals. Birds know that no ill will is borne for their kind from one such as myself, and they seldom scatter when my path carries me through their chaotic gatherings on the pavement. This is an issue, as great effort is expended in the attempt not to crush or kick them while in mid step.

Whilst picking my way amongst them, one bird stood out from the pack.

from wikipedia

Feral pigeons (Columba livia), also called city doves, city pigeons, or street pigeons, are derived from domestic pigeons that have returned to the wild. The domestic pigeon was originally bred from the wild Rock Dove, which naturally inhabits sea-cliffs and mountains. Rock (i.e., ‘wild’), domestic, and feral pigeons are all the same species and will readily interbreed. Feral pigeons find the ledges of buildings to be a substitute for sea cliffs, have become adapted to urban life, and are abundant in towns and cities throughout much of the world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Disturbingly heterogenous, Pigeons exhibit multitudes of colorations naturally, something the normal urban observer would readily acknowledge. Never has a bird of this speciation displayed anything like what’s depicted in these shots in my presence. A Pigeon with red and yellow wings is something new, to me at least.



Various forms of a gene named Tyrp1 make pigeons either blue-black (the grayish color of common city pigeons), red or brown. Mutations of a second gene, named Sox10, makes pigeons red no matter what the first gene does. And different forms of a third gene, named Slc45a2, make the pigeons’ colors either intense or washed out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It didn’t seem to be paint or dye, it should be mentioned, which would betray itself by causing the appearance of the feathers to be matted. This ain’t “photoshop” either, lords and ladies, as a note for the jaded or suspicious amongst you.

That’s a wild NYC Pigeon, with wings and a tail which are red and yellow, spotted on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City on the 9th of March in 2014 – just for the record.


Scientists have long wondered why feral pigeon populations show such plumage diversity compared to other feral animals. Generally, feral animals revert to the wild or ancestral type (in this case a blue-bar colouration), yet towns and cities are full of pigeons of a wide variety of colours. The question is, what causes this variation? Is it that female pigeons are choosing particular coloured males or vice versa? Are particular coloured pigeons more or less vulnerable to predation?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 14, 2014 at 11:30 am

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