But some of the "Sex in the City" going on among our animal neighbors would alarm even Samantha, Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte. A placid group of drakes dabbling on a pond will turn into a violent scrum, submerging a single female in the coerced copulations common among mallard ducks. And, that recent scourge of city life, the bedbug, is even more unpleasant to meet if you happen to be another bed bug.
Males, equipped with a penis variously described as "needlelike", "scythelike" and "hypodermic," writes Feinstein, practice what is called traumatic insemination. They look for no particular target on a female, but puncture her body anywhere during mating, allowing sperm to simply diffuse throughout.
Feinstein also reveals tamer tidbits. For example, individual pigeons land either left-footed or right-footed, and feel so at home in our concrete canyons because they are descendants of wild cliff dwellers. Raccoons, normally solitary, build up large populations in cities and suburbs and form food-begging gangs. And flocks of chimney swifts return to particular industrial smokestacks on the same day each year, just like the legendary swallows of San Juan Capistrano.
Country Mouse, City Mouse
What makes one species suited to city life while another abhors it? Apparently, animal urbanites share many characteristics with the humans that surround them: City residents tolerate crowding, have broad palates, adapt to unusual living arrangements and tend to be scrappier than their country cousins, says Ms. Feinstein.
Ring-billed (or "trash") gulls, for example, hold their own against aggressive starlings in fights over scraps in city garbage dumps. Cockroaches can learn to overcome their aversion to mint if sugar is involved (so hide your Mentos). Crows squeeze ketchup from leftover plastic packets and Central Park squirrels dine on pizza, donuts and souvlaki. In spring,
|Contact: Jessa Netting|
City College of New York