In Pursuit of Pigeons | Week in Pictures

Every Monday, we present a gallery of pictures of the week just passed, taken by our staff photojournalists — and tell you the story behind one of them. This week Tyger Williams talks about photographing pigeons in Center City.

A pair of pigeons in Center City July 1, 2019. The number of pigeons recorded each year in the Philadelphia Bird Census has dropped sharply since the mid-1990s.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
A pair of pigeons in Center City July 1, 2019. The number of pigeons recorded each year in the Philadelphia Bird Census has dropped sharply since the mid-1990s.

Photography intern Tyger Williams was hoping to have some fun assignments during his summer at the Inquirer. Assigned to shoot a story on Philadelphia’s plunging pigeon population, the 2019 Western Kentucky University graduate figured scouting for a bird counted. “I was looking up at buildings,” he said, when he heard birds chirping. “Do pigeons even chirp?” he thought.

Growing up in Louisville, Williams had only seen pigeons when going downtown there. Looking for them here in Center City on streets the reporter suggested, he came up empty, so he started wandering, thinking where would he go if he were a pigeon. “What if people had wings. Or the ability to just remove themselves from one place to another in a matter of seconds,” he wondered, considering how difficult it is to photograph something that can just fly away.

Getting down low on the sidewalk for a different angle on his subject, Williams could only imagine what the people walking by were thinking. He watched one pigeon pecking at a half-eaten hotdog, and another fly into a tree. “I never saw a pigeon in a tree before,” he said.

Continuing his quest he soon started to feel, “like the pigeons were following me. I know it could’ve been two different pigeons, but they kept approaching.” When one shot him, “a mean look, the pigeon eye,” he decided then was as good a time as any to call an end to his pigeon pursuit.

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