Bitten to the Quick | NY Times


Pigeons - NY Times - Illustration by Melinda Josie

Illustration by Melinda Josie

In the spring of 2013, a family of pigeons nested in scaffolding outside my apartment building two blocks off St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan’s Washington Heights. From the window of my first-floor apartment, I heard the cheeping of baby birds and affectionately observed their downy forms and tiny black-tipped beaks: my very own slice of nature.

But in May, when the squabs matured into fledglings and flew off, it seems that a horde of barely visible parasites that had been feeding off them — bird mites — needed a new blood supply. They launched an Old Testament-worthy invasion of the first-floor apartments. Relentless and nocturnal, the bugs robbed us all of sleep, raising painful red bites on my skin that were ringed with bruises. They appeared to prefer warm and damp locales: hair, nasal passages, ear canals, folds in skin and, most alarmingly, groins.

By Memorial Day, I looked as if I’d wandered out of a medieval pestilence. With more than 30 welts on my body, I began sleeping at hotels or couch-surfing a few nights a week to get a break.

Read more: Bitten to the Quick –

NYC Pigeon - Jay Franco

Photo: Jay Franco

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