Mariel Mitkowski/Instagram: marielmitkowski
A New York City pigeon got a wing up from kind stranger who turned on a drinking fountain for the thirsty bird on Thursday.
A now-viral video, first reported by the Staten Island Advance, shows New Yorker Steven Pesantez watching with what looks like pure glee while the bird guzzles water at Staten Island’s ferry terminal. His friend Mariel Mitkowski, who shot the video, can be heard exclaiming “He was waiting for you!” in the background.
Pesantez told HuffPost that he and Mitkowski were waiting for the ferry when they spotted the pigeon loitering on top of the fountain.
“We joked about how he was just waiting there for someone to help him out, then we decided it would be funny to record me going over to him and helping out!” he said in an email.
It seems like they had a good sense of what the pigeon wanted.
“It seemed like he was enjoying it!” said Pesantez. “He wasn’t taking a bath, so I’m pretty sure he was indulging in some of NYC’s finest tap water.”
He added that he’s happy the video has been resonating with people.
“I’m just stoked that the world is getting to share this wholesome moment in a time where there is so much craziness,” he said.
The Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Manhattan, noted on Twitter that there are “credible reports” that pigeons sipping from fountains at the Staten Island ferry terminal is actually a “regular phenomenon.”
Update: We’ve heard credible reports that this is a regular phenomenon at the Staten Island ferry terminal fountains, not a one-time occurrence, as this story would have you believe. Accuracy in pigeon journalism is all we seek here.
— Wild Bird Fund (@wildbirdfund) January 12, 2019
But it may not be so surprising that pigeons have figured out such a clever way to get a drink since pigeons are a lot smarter than many people give them credit for. A 2015 study published in the journal Cognition found that pigeons were able to learn to sort 128 photos correctly into categories like “baby,” “tree,” “flower,” “dog” and “cracker.”
And while having any animal standing in a human drinking fountain may not exactly be ideal (pigeon droppings do present “modest health risks” to people, according to the NYC health department) the birds aren’t nearly as dirty as some people think they are. Ornithologist Paul Sweet told Gizmodo last year that pigeons are “quite clean,” and actually play an important role in cities cleaning up waste left by human beings.
As for Pesantez, he’s definitely a pigeon appreciator.
“I never understood why people hate them,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Gothamist was the first news outlet to report on the video.