What Happened When I Became New York’s Famous Pigeon Lady

Published April 15, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017
Published April 15, 2016
Updated February 10, 2017

Just finished this funny little guy. #folkart #streetart #urbanwildlife #iloverats #vegan

A photo posted by mother pigeon (@motherpigeonbrooklyn) on

Trachtenberg brings her love of rats into the home as well. “Our neighbors are trying to get rid of the [rats in our building], so I know that they come out to eat in the hallway at night,” the artist said. “And so I’ve always just left food out for them — I know people think I’m totally insane.”

“Just the other day my husband said, ‘Tina, there’s some rice and meat in a pot over there, do you want me to put it in a bag for your rats tonight?’ and I was like ‘Oh my God, I’ve made my family crazy too,’ but still was like ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I want you to do.’”

However, Trachtenberg at first had reservations about adding rats to her knitted wares. “I adore rats, but I almost didn’t do it because I thought I’d lose my sweet little bird lady friends and hipsters, but it’s not even like that at all. If the person likes rats, they look at rats. If they like birds, they look at the birds. After I made them, I really didn’t care. I fell in love with them even more.”

“I know people think I’m totally insane.”

While Trachtenberg’s knitted pests and street performance tips do make her money, that’s not really what keeps her going. “You just have these animals that are reduced to living in gutters, or street corners with no water or food, and it’s unacceptable,” she said.

“People tell me ‘Oh no, that can’t be, they have plenty of food.’ The reality is that no, they don’t, they live for a year or so and then starve. That’s not OK to me.”

And so, Mother Pigeon has chosen to spend her time and energy in the city using little more than fabric, wire and concrete to speak on behalf of some of the world’s most reviled creatures.

“I just think to myself how funny it is that I live in a city with all this stuff, and I’m only looking up at buildings for pigeons,” Trachtenberg said. “I like humans too, I feel their suffering, but for me it’s animals that have to struggle in this world. That’s all I think about.”

For last week’s incredible “What Happened When” tale, read the harrowing, bizarre tale of an Army medic who was ambushed by the Taliban — and could only escape by some very unorthodox means.