October 10, 2018 by Manuel Rueda
On a bright Sunday afternoon, a group of government workers walked around Bogota's most famous square dressed as pigeons, with cardboard beaks covering their noses, as thousands of real birds swarmed overhead and left their droppings on stately monuments.
Flapping their plastic wings and performing brief skits, they urged curious pedestrians not to feed the large flocks that descend each day onto Plaza Bolivar, a grand colonial era square flanked by a Roman Catholic cathedral and Colombia's elegant congressional building.
"There are too many pigeons here," said Mauricio Cano, a biologist who led the group of bird impersonators. "Feeding them is bad for people, and for the birds."
While London has tried to scare unruly pigeons away from train stations by deploying menacing hawks, and Paris has employed contraceptive methods to limit flock sizes, Bogota's government is trying to fight pigeon overpopulation through educational campaigns that urge people not to feed them.
Officials believe that if people stop nourishing the birds, they will stop concentrating in public squares where their droppings sully historical buildings and put people's health at risk. If the birds, which aren't native to Colombia, don't gather in large numbers their rate of reproduction is also likely to decrease.