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Nature's Witness: A Fresh Eye

A photographer sees New York City pigeons in a different light through a camera lens.

  • Photograph by George McKenzie Jr.
  • PhotoZone
  • Sep 23, 2020

NEW YORK CITY'S UNION SQUARE PARK hums with the lively wingbeats of rock pigeons zooming in for handouts from a woman known as Mother Pigeon. “She feeds all the wild flocks in the city,” says photographer George McKenzie Jr., who met Mother Pigeon while doing a project on the human connection to the city’s ubiquitous birds.

Headshot of photographer George McKenzie Jr.

A native New Yorker, McKenzie admits he once saw pigeons as “rats with wings.” But through studying them, he came to admire their huge variety and street smarts. “They made me want to tell more stories about urban wildlife,” he says.

Telling visual stories has become a passion for McKenzie, who feels his perspective as a Black American can inspire others—especially, he says, “kids who look like me and come from the same environment.”

Wildlife photography “saved my life,” he adds. “Life to me just looks different through a viewfinder. It’s beautiful.” He now wants to use the power of his photography to promote conservation. “If you tell a good story with your lens, it can change the mind of just one person, and that can inspire a ripple effect.”


More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

When Cities Welcome Wildlife »
Blog: Be-Bopping with Pigeons »
See Last Issue's Nature's Witness »

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