Bird Brained: Chicago Alderman Moves To Make Feeding Pigeons A Crime

220px-JCappleman250px-Rock_dove_-_natures_picsIt appears that Chicago has emerged wiped crime, the bad economy and the educational crisis. Even a district attorney who seems to spend much of her time stripping rights from citizens as opposed to locking up criminals appears to has appeared as a danger. The only issue left it appears for Ald. James Cappelman (46th) (my old ward in Chicago) is to criminalize feeding pigeons. That’s right, Cappelman wants to make feeding the bird a crime — joining a national movement toward the criminalization of annoying or commonplace acts that I have previously criticized in columns (here and here) and numerous blogs on the criminalization of using artificial turf to growing vegetable gardens to eating french fries in the subway. Politicians like Cappelman are turning America into a nation of felons as everyday acts are regulated through the criminal code.

Cappelman has introduced an ordinance that would make feeding pigeons a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. That’s right six months in jail. He told colleagues that he was simply tired of seeing all of the pigeons when he walks to Wilson station in Chicago. I know that station since it is near my family home. It is a typical CTA station with birds that nest in the steel superstructure. It has always had lots of birds and, yes, bird droppings.

Notably, it is already a violation of the city code to feed pigeons with a potential fine of $500. That is what makes Cappelman the poster boy for the criminalization movement. He wants to move the offense from a heavy fine to an actual criminal act to express his personal distaste for a common act.

Cappelman appears obsessed with those who feed birds. In May he claimed that he was assaulted when he started sweeping away breadcrumbs left by a woman for the birds. He regularly sends out staff, he says, to sweep up the crumbs.

First, I am not sure how an alderman can order an office worker to go sweep city streets. Second, I am not sure how even the city ordinance can be enforced if it is meant to focus on pigeons as opposed to other birds. I found one section that focused on pigeons, though it does not expressly cover feeding of pigeons:

7-12-387 Restrictions on pigeons.

(a) For purposes of this section only the following definition applies:

“Pigeon” means any live bird of the Family Columbidae.

(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to import, sell, own, keep or otherwise possess any live pigeon within any area designated as a residence district under the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. Nothing in this subsection prohibits any person from transporting a live pigeon through a residential district, if the pigeon is caged during transport and not released in a residential district.

I am not sure how the city will confirm that the intent is to feed a member of the Family Columbidae as opposed to a different bird family.

Third, while this can be a nuisance, I spent my youth getting on and off the CTA at the Wilson station. My primary concern was staying alive (the neighborhood has improved since then) and to avoid being jumped by the ever-present pedophiles in the area. Indeed, I always found the bird droppings to add traction in out running the gang members chasing us. Of course, it was kids like us that were attracting the pedophiles like breadcrumbs. Perhaps we should have been banned as well. Then Cappelman could have the EL to himself.

I have no love for pigeons and never saw the need to feed them. I would often see old ladies doing this in the mornings. What I saw was perhaps misplaced kindness but not a crime. Regardless of who is right, Cappelman and other politicians need to stop using the criminal code as a way to elevate their pet peeves. There is already ample crime in the Chicago that goes unaddressed that leaves bodies not breadcrumbs on our city streets.

Source: CBS

24 thoughts on “Bird Brained: Chicago Alderman Moves To Make Feeding Pigeons A Crime

  1. HSBC performs money laundering, hides illegal transactions from so-called terrorist nations, and works closely with drug cartels. Their punishment is a fine paid for by the shareholder; no criminal charges against the corporate kingdom. Feed a pigeon or a mourning dove? Jail time.

  2. how about feeding pigeons to the homeless?

    Pigeon Pie
    serves 5 – 6
    5 fl oz (150 ml) red wine
    2 tab!espoons (30 ml) port
    6 juniper berries, crushed
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetabie oil
    4 pigeons
    1 oz (25 g) butter
    1 tbsp (15 ml) vegetabie oil
    1 onion, finely chopped
    4 rashers streaky bacon, rinds removed, chopped
    12 oz (350 g) chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
    6 oz (175 g) flat mushrooms, thickly sliced
    few sprigs of parsley, chopped
    1/2 tsp dried thyme
    12 oz (350 g) shortcrust pastry

    1. Mix together wine, port, juniper berries and oil for the marinade and season with freshly ground black pepper. Remove breasts from the pigeons and cut into large pieces. Put into a non-metallic dish, pour over the marinade, cover. Leave in fridge overnight.

    2. Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan, add the onion and bacon and fry gently for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserve.

    3. Remove pigeon from the marinade, drain. Reserve marinade. Increase heat and fry the pigeon and the steak in batches, sealing on all sides.

    4. Put the pigeon, steak, onion and bacon into a 2 pint (1.25 litre) pie dish and top with the mushrooms. Sprinkle with herbs, pour over the reserved marinade.

    5. Roll out the pastry to 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick, put a pie funnel into the dish. Cut a 1/2 inch (1 cm) strip of pastry and place around the edge of the dish. Brush with water and top with the remaining pastry. Use the pastry trimmings to decorate the top of the pie.

    6. Bake at Mark 4 (180°C) 350°F for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to Mark 2 (150°C) 300°F and cook for a further 1 1/2 hours. Cover the pastry with foil if it browns too much during cooking.

  3. Pigeon with Prunes
    serves 4
    4 young pigeons
    flour, for dusting
    50 g (2 oz) lard or dripping
    1 rasher fat bacon
    1 onion, skinned and chopped
    2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    225 g (8 oz) tomatoes, chopped
    50 g (2 oz) mushrooms, wiped
    600 ml (1 pint) beef stock
    1 bay leaf
    1 bouquet garni
    pinch of sugar
    225 ml (8 fl oz) red wine
    12 prunes
    sweet chutney
    12 almonds, blanched

    1. Dust the pigeons in flour. Melt the lard in a pan and brown the birds then remove and place in a deep casserole. Add the bacon and chopped vegetables and mushrooms to the fat remaining in the pan and brown them.

    2. Add the stock, herbs and sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Push through a sieve, adjust the seasoning and add 100ml (4 fl oz) wine. Pour the liquid over the birds and simmer in a closed casserole for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

    3. Meanwhile, simmer the prunes in the rest of the wine until tender. Remove their stones, fill with chutney and one almond.

    4. Remove the birds to an open dish and pour over the sauce. Garnish with the stuffed prunes.

  4. Wood Pigeons in Beer
    serves 4
    4 small wood pigeons
    30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
    25 g (1 oz) butter
    450 g (1 lb) onions, skinned and sliced
    45 ml (3 tbsp) plain flour
    20 ml (4 tsp) french mustard
    600 ml (1 pint) light ale
    20 ml (4 tsp) soft brown, sugar
    30 ml (2 tbsp) vinegar
    142 ml (5 fl oz) carton soured cream
    200 g (7 oz) can of pimientos, drained and thinly sliced

    1. Cut the backbone from each pigeon, leaving the rest of the bird whole. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole. Add the butter and when frothing brown the birds lightly on all sides. Remove the birds.

    2. Fry the onions until golden. Stir in the flour, mustard, ale, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring.

    3. Return the birds to the casserole. Cover tightly and cook in the oven at 170°C (325°F) mark 3 for about 2} hours, or until tender. Serve the pigeon on a heated dish. Reheat the juices with the soured cream and pimientos. Spoon over the pigeons.

  5. Would that also apply to lobbyist…….. Or the elected officials……hmmmmm….. Extricating a law for its urn intended consequences……

  6. ”RATS with WINGS” old Newyourkers used to call them…. There actually is some sense to the proposed law. Pigeons, they are a nuisance…. Feeding them only makes it worse….

  7. Bron,

    Pigeon is good eats in most of the world. They are every bit as tasty as quail and dove.

    And this Cappelman is as the Prof alludes to just another idiot pol who thinks his office is a way to push his will upon the people whether it is rational or not and whether the agenda promotes a necessary substantive social benefit or not. He is a symptom of a system that not only attracts narcissists, but caters to them. Jailing people who feed pigeons? Grow up, you self-centered twit. I’m not big on people who constantly talk on their cell phone while dealing with cashiers, but I don’t think they should go to jail for it.

  8. A wonderful law making great sense, but it doesn’t go far enough. It should be a Class A felony, 6 years (no parole) not 6 months and eligible for three strikes your out for multiple violations. However, that doesn’t go far enough because without enforcement it won’t work. The legislation should include funding for a Chicago wide Pigeon Squad one thousand strong, along with an application to homeland Security for the latest detection equipment and weaponry. An elite section of the Pigeon Squad should be designated the “Hawk Squad” with police officers trained in Falconry. Their sole duty would be to get their birds to kill pigeons. Also the public should be offered a bounty of $100 per dead pigeon brought in. Per Bron’s recipe’s all dead birds will be donated to feed the homeless. To satisfy some Chicagoans more liberal tendency Free Squab Kitchens should be established to cook the dead birds and feed those homeless without culinary skills.

  9. This is what happens in a city where the mayor and all alders are the same party. The same in Madison, where I live.

  10. When oldest son was in medical school, he lived in a high rise apartment. There was a Kestrel that lived outside his window on a ledge. He would watch the Kestrel catch his pigeon lunch in a screaming dive from high above the building. It was like watching a dogfight between a jet and a prop plane. No contest.

  11. I feed birds. There is a pair of doves in my back yard who come back every year. I’d feed the pigeons too if I lived in the city.

  12. I too feed birds, and I do not understand. Birth-control for raccoons and deer are put in Canadian animal food-piles. Birth-control is used for a show-dogs show schedule. Why must we shoot, trap, criminalize, contact with our environment? There ARE other ways….

  13. This man must have a lot of free time in his prosecutorial day and a lot of money too that he wants to start prosecuting people for feeding pigeons. Chicago is a strange city but really aren’t there more pressing problems than this?!

  14. Artlcles such as this make me glad cities and counties cannot enact felony laws.

    If this was already a violation of the city code, I would assume as a fine only, making it a criminal law with the potential of jail time opens up the cost for the city by several orders of magnitude to prosecute.

    As transforming this pigeon law from a “fine only” civil infraction to a criminal act that carries a jail time these are just some of the extra costs the city will have to face.

    1) Burden of proof goes from “preponderance of evidence” to “beyond a reasonable doubt”
    2) Defendant has the right to a trial by jury
    3) Defendant may compel witnesses and cross examine the city’s.
    4) If the defendant is indigent, the city must provide an attorney at its own expense to the defendant.
    5) The defendant may file every conceivable motion, appeal, hearing, subpoena under the sun in his/her defense, adding to the cost of the prosecution.
    6) The city has greater false arrest liability as if the police or code enforcement make a grevious error in enforcement they are on the hook but if they make a grevious error in issuing an otherwise $25.00 fine the citizen isn’t going to have much of a case.
    7) The prosecutor’s office is not going to want to deal with this. Police officers are not going to want to bother with it either, especially if everyone out there had a collective attitude to fight every criminal pigeon feeding charge and subpoena all officers to testify, 95% of cops would not want to bother going to court on something like this.

  15. No one cooks pigeons the way the Muslims do. Period. From Morocco to Persia, the Islamic world loves its pigeon — squab is just a young, domestically raised pigeon.

    This recipe is inspired by the Hamam Mahshi bil Bughul recipe in Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, which has lots of pigeon recipes. I made the Turkish version; the original is from Egypt, where raising pigeons is an art.

    I use wild pigeons, which are not as tender as squab but which have far more flavor. Seasons on them are liberal — there is none in California — and if you shoot barn pigeons fat on grain, they are wholesome and delicious. I don’t recommend eating city pigeons.

    The key to cooking with wild pigeons is to brine them for 6-12 hours first. This keeps them from drying out in the cooking process, just like a turkey. I use a solution of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 4 cups water.

    The stuffing can be made in advance, but everything should be eaten hot in the end. To drink I’d recommend a medium-bodied red wine, or, to be Turkish, some raki.

    Serves 2.

    2 pigeons, whole and plucked
    3 cups game bird or chicken stock
    1 cup bulgur wheat
    Kosher salt
    1 minced onion
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts
    2 tablespoons butter or oil
    1/2 cup chopped mint
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon allspice
    1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    2 celery sticks
    Juice of a lemon

    Brine your pigeons in the salt solution I refer to above for 6-12 hours in the fridge.
    Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a pot, then add the cinnamon, cardamom, about 1 teaspoon of salt and the allspice. Add the bulgur, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the wheat absorbs the liquid.
    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat and fry the onions and walnuts, stirring often, until they begin to color. Turn off the heat.
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    When the bulgur is done, add it to the onion-walnut mixture and stir to combine. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat. When it is cool, add the mint and a little lemon juice and mix well. Stuff each bird with some of the mixture, but not too much, as it will expand a bit. Leave the remaining bulgur in the pan.
    In another, oven-proof pan (cast iron is ideal), lay the pigeons breast side down. Use the celery sticks as props to keep them in place. Roast this way for 25 minutes.
    Turn the birds over and roast for another 10 minutes, then turn the heat to 500 degrees and roast for a final 10 minutes — this is to brown and crisp the breast meat. Remove and let the pigeons rest for 5-10 minutes. Heat up the bulgur mixture in the pan over low heat. Serve the pigeons on a bed of bulgur, top with a little lemon juice and some fleur de sel, if you have any


    This is a reasonably simple spring roast that you could do with any game bird. They key here is to have something rich – such as polenta, mashed potatoes or squash – a simply done meat, and this sharp green sauce.

    You can do the green sauce as long as a day before if you’d like, and it will keep for several days if you cover it closely with plastic wrap – keep the air off the top of the sauce or it will oxidize.

    Serves 4.

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook Time: 20 minutes

    4 whole pigeons, squab or teal ducks, or 8-12 doves
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

    Green Sauce

    1/2 cup parsley, chopped
    1/3 cup fresh oregano or marjoram, chopped
    1/4 cup garlic chives, green garlic, or 3 garlic cloves
    1 teaspoon mustard
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
    2 tablespoons bread crumbs
    Olive oil

    To make the green sauce: Roughly chop the herbs and put them into a food processor or blender. Add the mustard, bread crumbs, salt and pepper, then the sherry. Buzz it until it is all well combined, about 45 seconds.

    Turn the machine on low and begin drizzling in olive oil until the sauce gets a gravy-like consistency. It usually takes about 1/2 cup to do this.

    Once it is the correct consistency — think melted ice cream – turn the machine up to its highest setting and buzz the mixture for 1 minute. If you want to be extra elegant, run the sauce through a tamis or fine sieve.

    To roast the pigeons, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

    Take each bird and cut the backbone out with shears or a chef’s knife. Open the birds wide by spreading them with your hands, cracking the ribs.

    Carefully slip your fingers under the skin on the wishbone side of the breasts and smear butter underneath. Liberally salt the birds all over.

    In an oven-proof pan, sear the sides of the birds in butter or olive oil until browned, then place the birds, breast side up, in the oven. Roast 15 minutes, remove and let rest 5 minutes. If you are doing this with doves, roast for only 8-10 minutes. Grind black pepper over the birds at this point (any earlier and it would burn.)

    You can either serve them whole, or cut the breasts, legs and wings off and serve separately. Either way, include a “bone bowl” on the table for your guests.

  17. Now look: If someone wants to feed an alderman, and that annoys ME, do I get all bothered about it? Somebody fed primates at the zoo and I just went apesh*t about it. This is going too far. You’ll have a bunch of no-feeders soon in competition with the tea-baggers and then you’ll end up, before you know it, with the whole political spectrum of nay-sayers and dumb-chuckers and you’ll really find out what it means to fly south.

  18. Pigeons are rats with wings. People that feed them should be fined heavily. Anyone who would disagree with this does not have to deal with the effects of pigeons.

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