New York City will witness the spectacle of a massive flock of pigeons dancing in the sky flashing LED lights tagged to their legs. For a show called Fly by Night, 2,000 pigeons staged a premiere on 5 May when they were released at sunset from their coops aboard a decommissioned naval ship docked at Brooklyn Navy Yard. The main show is scheduled for each weekend, from 6 May through 12 June at dusk.
At the blow of a whistle, thousands of these birds will circle above the East River when the sun sets in Manhattan. A remotely controlled tiny LED light will be tied to each bird's leg, replacing the small bands that are traditionally used for carrying messages.
Flying to their own improvised choreography, the pigeons were seen swooping, twirling and gliding through the sky.
Artist Duke Riley, creator of the 30-minute show, told AP: "It's almost like this shooting star going across the skyline."
The stage show is free of charge but an online reservation is required. The organisers have said there is already a waitlist.
To pay tribute to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, artist Riley has chosen to display his light show there, as the yard is said to have accommodated the country's largest naval fleet of pigeons, dating back to early 20th century. He said he drew inspiration from an old military manual on training pigeons for the missions carried out by the military at night for his show too.
New York is home to thousands of domesticated pigeons, and many people in the neighbourhood have donated their pet for the show. The birds will be seen in different colours – some with a red beak, others with black stripes and one with silver heads.
A Chinese technician was roped in to create the LED lights circuits, with an American manufacturer making the containers for the equipment that are tied to the birds' leg bands.
After the show, many of the birds are set to be given to a man in Brooklyn who lost hundreds of pigeons in a fire earlier this year.
A curator for the Creative Time, Meredith Johnson, said of Railey that he wants to bring the pigeons out of the shadows. "Pigeons suffer a PR problem. People have this sense that they're rats with wings. But pigeons are incredibly complex."