Apart from the fact they rhyme together pretty well, Lisbon’s pigeons have also something in common. Namely, Lisbon.
I know I’m confusing you, so let’s start by telling a short story.
The Space Invader
It’s Saturday morning and I decided to chill in one of the coffee shops I found suitable for work in the area. After I ordered my regular double espresso and tostada (it’s called different here, but I stil call it a tostada), I took out my laptop from the bag and started to check out on my regular data. News, prices, blog posts, the whole thing.
At some point the barista came with my double espresso – sometimes they do that, they bring it to your table, when it’s not very crowded. And after she left I saw her doing something very unusual: kicking the air while moving here hands forward. That was strange. It was only a second after, when I spotted, right in front of her, partially hidden by her body, the pigeon that she was trying to chase away from the coffee shop, that I understood it. She was just trying to scare the guy out. The pigeon was very stubborn, though, and it took a few kicks to actually make him leave, but it didn’t last long. After a few minutes he was back inside, looking again for some food under the tables.
And then I realized it wasn’t the first time I witnessed that. In all the coffee shops I was until today, there was at least a hunter pigeon. And the baristas were spending quite a lot of time chasing them away, only for them to return, because, you know, flying. It was so common, that I didn’t even notice it, until the strange gestures stood up.
The Real Space Invaders
Lisbon’s pigeons are highly territorial. They behave like the coffee shop belongs to them.
But, if you really think about it, it does. They were here first. Pigeons evolved from a bird called Rock Dove a few hundreds of years ago (basically when humans started to domesticate and use them for all kind of interesting things, like private mail) and it appears there are more than 400 millions of them in the world today. By the looks of it, I thought there were 400 millions in Lisbon only, but hey, I’ve always been bad with numbers.
Regardless of the real numbers, though, pigeons were here before the coffee shop. It’s only normal they claim they territory.
We are so limited by our perceptions and we’re more and more entitled, taking for granted pretty much everything. Our morning espresso, our coffee shops, our right to discriminate other people just because we don’t agree with them on topics like how much the Earth temperature is influenced by the very things that are entitling us, also known as “civilization”. We only see a slice of the world, we mold onto it our expectations and limited perceptions, and call this “reality”.
But every once in a while, a barista comes, which, by the simple gesture of kicking out a pigeon, raises the veil a little, giving me a glimpse of these limitations.
Lisbon’s pigeons aren’t territorial at all. We are.
They’re just doing the one thing they’re good at, and the one that we, humans, forgot somewhere along the way: just being.