Pigeon, that at once annoying and endearing vermin, is a common sight wherever you go. In San Juan’s Old Town, though, their presence is particularly hard to tune out: Pigeons are everywhere. There is even an entire park devoted to them, Parque de las Palomas, where they nest in the City Wall, lounge in trees overlooking the stunning views of the San Juan Bay, and get daily feedings from gleeful children. It’s a Pigeon Riviera:
We marveled at rows of man-made holes in the old wall, perfect for nesting sites. Were these holes made especially for the birds? None I talked to knew. Fern clung to some of the bricks, providing additional shade and color.
Old trees with gnarled roots flank the small park. Their branches are covered with pigeons, en masse, a more unnerving sight than I had anticipated. A wave of expectation seemed to wash over me from the birds’ beady eyes. Happily, for just $1, you can buy a proper tribute from street sellers nearby–if you dare, that is. Flocks and flocks of these birds will not be shy in claiming it.
As we wandered elsewhere in the city, the birds’ presence remained firm. They accompanied us to the tombs of the immaculate Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery.
They peered at us from colorful store fronts.
They even stared at us from within the walls.
And they perched over us as we enjoyed San Juan’s sunsets over the Bay.
But soon we noticed that not all was luxury and leisure in their lives. There was another presence on Old Town streets, just as watchful of these birds as they were of us: cats. We observed several hunts, all unsuccessful. The more we walked, the more aware we became of this ongoing tug of war between bird and its predator. But I shall stop here: Cats of San Juan deserve a post of their own.