have not always called Golden Gate Park home. Rock Pigeons
(Columba livia) originated in the Eastern Hemisphere. Some of these pigeons
were eventually domesticated by humans. Escaped domestic and racing/homing
pigeons established populations in cities and towns. They were introduced
to North America in the 1600's by Northern Europeans who settled in Nova
Scotia, Canada. The Rock Pigeon is called the feathered rat by some. Although,
the pigeon is highly prized for its speed and ability to return home by
In reality, early San Francisco was lacking in most birds. To introduce the city’s children to the various species of birds, a huge aviary was constructed in 1892 covering most of the eastern portion of what we know as the John McLaren Rhododendron Dell. A little children’s book entitled Katie of Birdland (linked here) gives each species a personality and human voice. According to Raymond Clary in his THE MAKING OF GOLDEN GATE PARK, 1906-1950, Rock Pigeons became such a nuisance in Union Square the 1920’s that the Parks Department would trap them with nets and deliver them to the Aviary for safe keeping. As the story goes, they were then sold to restaurants and presented as squib.
As the Rec and Park Department do not appreciate the aerial antics of the pigeons, efforts were made to discourage their feeding and with the closure of the Concourse their number has diminished. Pigeons typically establish roosts and will travel as far as four and a half miles for food only to return to their roost. Though the demolition of the deYoung removed the actual structure they called home, many of their number have remained making first the construction scaffolding and now the finished new deYoung again their home.
As a result of the ‘press’ the recording is now only played occasionally, but the pigeons are not impressed. In conversations with authorities at the SF Zoo and falconers who make a living ‘discouraging’ pigeons, repeated recording accompanied by no real threat are quickly dismissed by the birds. One can sit and watch the sleeping pigeons not even raise a head as the hawk screeches every few minutes.