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This article is part of Birdopolis, a three-part series that explores the lives of birds that are, by accident or design, spending more time in urban environments. The other stories will be published June 23 and 24.
Join managing editor Adrienne Mason and two expert guests on June 29, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time, for a discussion about the surprising ways some marine birds are turning to city life.
The house didn’t beg for attention. A modest home, with a modest garden, on a nondescript street. Pigeons gathered on the terrace above, a congregation that would hardly draw a glance from most passersby. But its presence here—and only here—offered subtle confirmation that Anouk Spelt and Cara Williamson were in the right place. “X marks the spot,” the birds seemed to call.
Intel agreed. The researchers were chasing something, and GPS data confirmed their quarry visited this place with uncanny regularity. Armed with clues on a hunt for answers, they took the final steps and knocked on a stranger’s door.
Looking back on their experience that day in Bristol, England, four years ago, the researchers can’t help but laugh. There’s really no graceful way to ask someone what they do every day, and the homeowner was understandably suspicious of unexpected guests asking probing questions. When we asked what happened every day at 6:00 p.m., he did not want to tell us at first, recalls Spelt.
His expression softened, however, when…