Paul's Episcopal Cathedral - Table of Contents
Pigeons - St. Paul's
Pearl Street, Buffalo,
From the Archives #17
auto, trolley, truck and wagon meet,
Amidst the rush and grind of
Alert and bright, you glean your
Oh, fearless, lovely doves of Shelton
Before they were declared a public nuisance in the mid-twentieth
century, the pigeons
of Shelton Square were praised in poetry, pampered and protected.
Pigeons, however, were not the only residents of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
In 1865, after his second visit to England, the Rev. William Shelton, had English sparrows
shipped to Buffalo,
where they made their nests in the nooks and crannies in the walls of
the church. The Rev. Shelton loved these noisy little birds
and was often seen walking around the church feeding them out of his
hand: behavior one would not expect in a man from whom children usually
ran and in whose presence adults felt uneasy.
He also brought back sprigs of ivy
from Westminster Abbey
which he had planted around the stone foundations of the church. The
ivy thrived and within just a few years the walls of St. Paul’s were
covered in lush green foliage which made a perfect habitat for the
growing sparrow population. Unfortunately, the great fire of 1888 ended
the symbiotic relationship between ivy and sparrows. The conflagration
destroyed the ivy and the sparrows fled.
The pigeons we see today in American cities are not native to North
America. Immigrants from Northern Europe brought their
domestic pigeons to Nova Scotia in the early 1600’s, from whence many
of them returned to the wild, and have since spread throughout the
United States and Canada.
Pigeons literally flock to cities for three reasons: a continuous food
supply, the lack of urban predators, such as the Peregrine Falcon, and
tall buildings which are excellent substitutes for sea cliffs and rocky
Richard Upjohn’s new Gothic church suited the large colony of down-town
pigeons, who were undoubtedly already in the great tower when the
building was consecrated on October 22, 1851. To insure their continual
residency, wooden nest boxes
were constructed in the area of the tower housing the
No longer in use, the empty boxes, whitewashed with a century of
droppings, are still in place.
In the early years of the twentieth century, no visit to Buffalo was
complete without at least one trip down to Shelton Square to feed the
pigeons. Tourists loved having their pictures taken surrounded by
dozens of nervy, begging pigeons.
Possessing extremely keen eyesight and above average avian
intelligence, individual pigeons were able to spot their favorite
secretaries or businessmen from afar, and would fly only to them, or to
the sills of their office windows, to receive their daily rations. With
the arrival of winter, the S.P.C.A. took over the feeding of the city’s
pigeons. In the 1930’s, a half
a bushel of grain was delivered everyday about noon to the three
favorite pigeon hangouts: Shelton Square, Lafayette Square
and the city jail. At the first glimpse of S.P.C.A. Special Officer
Rudolph Karnath’s old Ford (and the birds never mistook another for
his) the pigeons left their
in a frenzied descent en masse to the sidewalk below, engulfing
unsuspecting pedestrians in a cloud of flapping wings.
By far the most generous gift given to the pigeons of Shelton Square
was a marble and bronze bird fountain
donated by Dr. and Mrs. Conrad Wettlaufer in 1920 in memory of their
daughter, Esther. It stood five feet high and supported a water bowl
four feet in diameter. It was located directly behind the great east
window of the chancel. In 1938, the fountain was the scene of a
kidnapping, of sorts. According to the newspaper account, three youths
were seen taking eight pigeons out of the Wettlaufer fountain and
running off with them. The same boys returned the next day to repeat
their crime; only this time, two police officers were waiting for them.
The police gave chase, after the boys snatched six more birds and took
off. With the law hot on their heels, the three thieves had to release
the captive birds to make good their escape.
The Wettlaufer memorial fountain was relocated to Delaware Park
sometime in the
Special thanks to Wayne Mori for making
this archive avilable for reprinting.
Page by Chuck
LaChiusa in 2014
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