The pigeon is known by many names. It has been referred to as the ?domestic pigeon,? the ?feral pigeon? and the ever-popular ?justa pigeon.? In 2004, the Ornithologists? Unions of both Britain and America opted for the name Rock pigeon (Columba livia).
In Krakow, people are divided into two groups: those who love this bird and those who don?t. Some people do not mind if these creatures cover the Old Town Rynek Glowny, or inhabit the balconies, sidewalks, streets, roofs and buildings. Some would rather they did not.
Maciej Barszcz of the Department of Municipal Economy and Environment Preservation answers the question of why there are so many pigeons in Krakow: ?You can find many places in Krakow in which pigeons can nest.
Like, for instance, old buildings with many nooks and crannies, or balconies. Second, they have access to a large amount of food. Many people accept the legend that states they are the transformed soldiers of Lokietek (one of the Polish kings), and they keep on feeding them. When there are too many birds on the balconies, some building administrations try to restrict their access to food. Very often people call and complain that their neighbors are feeding pigeons on their balconies.
If this happens regularly, hygienic problems might develop. But these are only a potential danger, because nobody has proven diseases can be transferred between pigeons and humans. We only know of one transmissible disease ? salmonella.?
Disturbed about the prospect of transferring diseases, I called the Provincial Sanitary-Epidemic Office in Krakow. Adam Kosek of the center gave me some information about bird flu: ?Pigeons live in an open-space environment, which makes them immune to the virus. Only farm animals like chickens may acquire this disease. However, because of the possibility of salmonella, it is better not to touch them.?
Concluding my investigation, I spoke with pigeon specialist Kazimierz Walasz from the Ornithologist Association in Krakow. He is the author of the Atlas of Breeding Birds in Malopolska and the Atlas of Wintering Birds in Malopolska.
?In our region (an area of 60,000 square kilometers), there are between 200,000-400,000 pigeons. Around 20,000-40,000 pigeons live within the city limits of Krakow,? said Walasz.