When you think of NYC, what comes to mind? Bagels, yellow cabs, the Empire State Building, and... pigeons.
Pigeons are as New York as the subway system and just as polarizing. Some don't mind the little guys but others despise them with a vengeance, even calling them "rats with wings."
But at least one New Yorker views these avian residents with a bit more empathy.
Through his series of short video vignettes, Nathan W. Pyle uncovers the private lives of pigeons in NYC. Turns out, they're a little more human than you might expect.
You might know Nathan W. Pyle from his viral animated illustrated series "NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette," which comically depicts advice for dealing with the realities and absurdities of living in NYC. For his next project, Pyle wanted to try something different.
It all started when Pyle simply wanted to add the top hat emoji 🎩 to a pigeon. While filming, a second pigeon quickly approached the first from behind. A narrative began to emerge.
"It seemed natural to create a vignette. And after that, I saw stories everywhere!" he says. And the rest, as they say, is history: a series most fowl was born.
Each sketch is brief — just 6 to 10 seconds long — and encapsulates a small moment in the complicated tapestry of bird life. Then, Pyle adds digital elements like such as emojis and text.
What makes these scenes so compelling (and hilarious) is the undeniable human element. Pigeons are surprisingly relatable. We're able to recognize some aspect of ourselves in their often dramatic interactions.
"Pigeons experience a complex range of emotions just like us. Sometimes they are friends and sometimes they fight. They have expectations and disappointments. Their hopes are often dashed but they try to learn from their mistakes," Pyle explains.
Like us, they deal with awkward social situations:
And also, like us, they fend off annoying friends:
How does he do it? Instagram Stories.
First, Pyle captures a few 30-second shots of various birds and squirrels in his daily miles-long walk across Manhattan. Parks and plazas are always hotspots, he says.
Then, with the footage cut down into the most succinct moments, he ideates. As Pyle experiments with emojis, text and text boxes, a narrative begins to take shape.
But he doesn't use these digital additions conventionally. Using the paint and text tools, an entirely different landscape can be built. For instance, two long brown blocks of blank text combined with an emoji creates a tree:
Now, with a collection of over 20 stories, Pyle is encouraging everyone to create their own pigeon vignettes. In fact, he's even created a how-to guide with helpful tips on how to craft them, like capturing your fowl subjects walking in and out of the frame. That way, there's an opportunity for a surprising reveal.
Intentionally or not, the video collection has given pigeons a much-needed dose of great PR. And it has empowered those New Yorkers who actually don't hate these city-dwelling birds to speak up.
"New Yorkers who LOVE pigeons have started to reach out, and I'm thrilled," Pyle declares. There is so much love for pigeons out there and I think people should know this. If you love pigeons you are not alone!"
Check out a compilation of the top twelve vignettes below: