05/24/2010 01:34 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Pigeon Man of Delancey Street

I saw the coolest thing as I was driving over the Williamsburg Bridge the other day...


Above this building at the end of Delancey Street...


I noticed a huge flock of birds circling overhead...Except, they never left the area. They just kept circling, and it soon became clear they were following something...


That's when I noticed these two guys on the roof, one of whom was leading the birds with a flag on the end of a very long pole. As he waved it in wide, swooping arcs, the birds would change direction - despite being at least 40 feet away.


A bit of research reveals this to be the art of pigeon flying, in which a flock of domesticated pigeons (sometimes as many as 250 or more!) is taught to respond to signals like flagpole waves, find its way home, etc. I believe you can see part of his coop in the above picture.


There's a man in Williamsburg who also does pigeon-flying (from the roof of the Polonia Democratic Club, according to this New York Magazine article). I was once on a nearby rooftop in Williamsburg when I saw him "throw" his flock to a guy on a neighboring roof using their flagpoles. They passed the flock back and forth for at least an hour.

More info in this Daily News article on New York pigeon flyers (as well as rooftop beekeepers!).


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