The Story Of Pigeon Man

ZemenMany people detest pigeons and say that they are disgusting and dirty. I even have heard people call them “flying rats.” People curse pigeons when they find bird poop on their car. But one Chicago man was different and gave pigeons the love and care that all living creatures deserve.

Joseph Zeman would sit for countless hours on a red fire hydrant near Western and Lawrence Avenues. He was called “the pigeon man of Lincoln Square.”

Numerous pigeons would be perched on Zeman. They would be on his head, shoulders, arms, his lap, and just wherever they could find a place.

He would sit for hours motionless with the pigeons surrounding him. Zeman would coo at the birds, kiss them, rub them, and he even had names for some of them. Everyday, he would go to his hydrant at least twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the late afternoon.

Zeman said in a 2004 interview, “Soon as I take a seat, they want to be loved and kissed like a mama’s baby. Like I’m their father, and they’re my child. See ‘em waiting here now, they know I’m coming. They’re waiting for me so they can say, `Here I am, here I am, do what you want to do with me. We’re not worried about you.’ I just tell ‘em all, `You’re my baby, you’re my baby too.’”

He lived in an attic a few blocks from his hydrant. Zeman used his money to buy pigeon supplies: bags of white rice, oatmeal cookies, birdseed, and loaves of bread. Each night, he would separate the food into plastic bags or baby food jars.

But now, the Pigeon Man is no longer with us. This past Tuesday, Zeman died after being hit by a van as it was pulling out of a parking lot. He just turned 77 a couple of days before.

In his 2004 interview, Zeman said that he considered his time on the hydrant as the most important work he has ever done. He stated, “I’m really advertising to the public how easy it is to be good without an attitude; it’s just as easy to show decency as it is to hate today.”

Zeman added, “All my life I had so much backstabbing at home, real problems there. I got to love the animals more, so trustworthy. Because I had so much trouble at home, I learned not to say nothing, keep to myself, just so I can’t be wrong anymore. So they came up to me [the pigeons]; I appreciated the friendship out of a bird more than a person. They’re wordless. They come up with pure appreciation.”

Source: Chicago Tribune (Thanks Debbie)

10 Responses to “The Story Of Pigeon Man”

  1. Charlie says:

    What a sweet man. I hope more people adopt his attitude regarding life. How precious life is no matter what others may think. May he rest in peace and others learn from him.

  2. Donna says:

    All creatures respond to love. Humans………………..that is a 50/50. Most are to self centered to give back the love that is given too them. Animals are creatures of spirit.They feel what is in your soul.This man kindness will be missed. I hope an other human comes to aid the birds.Treat all life as your equal. Your soul will respond .You will be a better person for all kindness extented to all creatures. Blessings to all that care.

  3. catmom5 says:

    This is a true Christmas message. I believe this man is truly an angel and surely showed compassion, kindness and caring beyond measure to precious creatures others wouldn’t. May he rest in peace, and as Donna said, I hope that other kind people will step up to help “his” birds. They will truly miss this special man.
    You did good, Joseph Zeman, and you made a difference in this world.

  4. NH says:

    What a wonderful human being. RIP good man. I wish there were more people like you in this world.

  5. Michelle says:

    That was a very heartwarming story. It’s true… there should be more people like this in the world. It’s great to see people caring about ALL animals, even the ones most find to be insignificant like pigeons. I hope Joseph rests in peace and is happy where he is. I also hope those birds can be helped by someone else in the future, too.

  6. Marilyn says:

    I think they should build a statue of him sitting there and let the pigeons come perch on it.

  7. The Lioness says:


    Marilyn, I think that’s a great idea!

    May Mr. Zeman rest in peace!

    ~The Lioness

  8. Christine says:

    I live in this neighborhood and saw him constantly since I moved to Chicago in September. I’ll certainly miss seeing him, and will hopefully have the time to feed the birds every once in a while.

  9. shibadiva says:

    Rest in peace, Joseph Zeman. There are others in the world with your sweetness and giving. There can never be enough like you.

  10. Anonymous says:

    If more people had this kind of love in their hearts, it would be a much better world. Thank you Pigeon man, for having a kind heart, taking care of God’s creatures, and giving them unconditional love.

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