Pigeon Olympics

Walking thru the Westbahnhof underground passageway at Mariahilferstrasse in Vienna is always a delight. The Ubahn station area is separated from the public passageway area by lines of three foot high stanchions, all painted orange. They look like fat croquet gates that have been bent into the shape of flattened keyholes. The passageway itself is open to the street at several places. It is not uncommon to find the occasional pigeon resting or warming itself in there. This particular version was of the mauve and grey breed, a strong, healthy specimen with a broad breast and smooth feathers. He was slaloming the orange barriers. That’s the only way I can label his actions. He would waddle between two stanchions from left to right, and as he rounded the gate, he would reverse direction. He kept this up for four gates! He was clearly in training for the Pigeon Olympics. In case you haven’t seen that reality show, pigeons compete in various events that show off their skills as urban athletes. Individual events include pecking at cigarette butts, “painting” statues with strategically deposited guano (style points for color quality), and of course, the stanchion slalom race. There are flock events as well, including the ever-popular rapid takeoffs from pecking at seeds as trucks drive at them at various speeds. I was quite impressed with the bird’s form and told him so. I’m confident enough in what I saw to place money on Team Vienna’s success in this summer’s games.

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