DOWNTOWN — You've seen them cooing, flying, pecking and dining.
But it seems like you rarely see Chicago pigeons in their final moments or actually dead.
"In the case of pigeons, we do find the remains of some, usually ones that have been killed by a predator, but often the remains are left up on a building ledge where we won't see it," Willard said. "And nature has a way of recycling — rats and other creatures would see a dead pigeon as a bonanza."
Pigeons, which can live five years in an urban environment like Chicago, face a host of challenges in the city. Countless birds crash into buildings and die; others get mangled string, wire or even human hair. Many freeze to death in Chicago's brutal winters.
Their biggest threat likely comes from predators, and there are a host of species that see them as a five-star meal. Several types of hawks, owls and falcons dine on pigeons. In Chicago, the numerous peregrine falcons view pigeons as a preferred food, racing 200 miles an hour through the air to catch them. Hundreds of thousands of birds, including predatory raptors, are migrating through Chicago right now, putting pigeons in even more danger.
Willard said when they're in the final hours, pigeons — like other animals — will find a secluded spot to die that's often out of the public's eye. Dead pigeons will quickly be picked apart and eaten by rats, cats — feral and domestic — bugs or other animals.
"We see a lot of dead birds and mammals around, but rarely ones that died from a natural cause," Willard said.
Here's a Peregrine falcon eating a pigeon in Pittsburgh. Warning: It's pretty gross.
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