By Sabina Mollot
Take a look at any of the squirrels in Stuyvesant Town or Peter Cooper Village and it is clear that both complexes are home to the most well-fed squirrel population on the planet. The fact that ST/PCV is also a known bird sanctuary is also evidence of just how many residents enjoy feeding the various types of birds, too.
However, one Stuyvesant Town resident and animal rescuer and rehabilitator is hoping to change this practice by warning neighbors that they be doing their feathered friends more harm than good by feeding them. Or more specifically, by feeding them bread.
Marilyn Pascarelli, a volunteer with City Critters who’s also the neighborhood’s go-to gal for retrieving runaway pets and wounded strays, was recently contacted about a baby pigeon found in Stuy Town that was unable to fly. It was also barely able to walk, witnesses noticed, as it attempted to wobble along on a sidewalk near 277 Avenue C.
“He wasn’t sure what he was doing or where he was going,” she said.
The bird, upon being spotted, allowed Pascarelli to pick it up without a fight. She then scooped it up into a shoebox and brought it uptown to the Wild Bird Fund on Columbus Avenue. Pascarelli, who has previously volunteered with the WBF, a bird rehabilitation center, said she was told by the director there that the bird, a male, was actually an adolescent rather than a baby. He appeared to be a baby though because he was very small and underweight and, after he pooped in the shoebox, it was clear he’d been suffering from diarrhea.
The director guessed that someone had been feeding him bread, which Pascarelli said she knew was correct. In fact, she even knew which one of her neighbors had been feeding bread to the birds.
The health issues the small bird wound up not being serious with the WBF just needing to keep him under observation with a companion until he was ready to be released where he was found. But Pascarelli was advised he would need to eat wild bird seed (a combination of seeds and other things like fruit and nuts, sold at pet stores).
“He was malnourished,” Pascarelli said of the bird. “Bread is not really for them to eat. People want to help and give (bread) to them and they eat it. It expands in their belly, so it makes them feel full, but there are no nutrients.”
Pascarelli said she’s already spoken to her neighbor (and provided her with a bag of bird seed) and is hoping other neighbors will also feed birds with seed as well. “It’s not expensive,” she said. Another upside to feeding bird seed rather than bread, Pascarelli added, is that the ground will be freer of liquid waste.
“You see those white clumps coming from them — that shouldn’t be,” she said. “It should be more like pellets, not that liquidy stuff.”
To report a sick or injured animal in the area, Pascarelli can be reached through City Critters at (212) 252-3183.