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2000 LED-tagged pigeons stage show in NYC

Associated Press Associated Press 7/05/2016 Verena Dobnik

New York is staging a show with 2000 pigeons tagged with LED lights illuminating the city's night sky.

For its premiere Thursday, the birds were released at sunset from coops aboard a former aircraft carrier docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Improvising their own choreography, the flock swooped, twirled and glided through the sky above the East River for the show called Fly by Night.

"It's almost like this shooting star going across the skyline," said artist Duke Riley, who created the 30-minute spectacle on the Brooklyn waterfront.

LED light bands are attached to a bird's leg and remote-controlled from the Baylander, a decommissioned navy ship from the Vietnam era.

Spectators lined a grandstand on land, surrounded by recorded sounds of birds cooing and flapping their wings as the pigeons perched atop the warship, waiting for the sky to darken.

Then a hush descended on the scene as Riley and several assistants, hollering and blowing whistles, waved garbage bags - simulating hawks - over the vessel to start the flock flying around.

The spectacle, which runs each weekend through June 12, is free of charge but requires online reservations. There's already a waiting list.

Riley selected the Brooklyn Navy Yard for his light show because nearby, on an artificial island, the navy housed its first messenger-pigeon fleet in the early 20th century.

The project by the 43-year-old artist and Boston native is presented by Creative Time, a New York-based nonprofit that sponsors public art. He says he was inspired for Fly by Night after reading an old military manual on training pigeons for night missions.

About two-thirds of the birds were donated by people from New York's pigeon community who were forced to give up their birds because of their housing situations. Others are on loan from friends.

Equipping thousands of pigeons with LED lights was a project unto itself - a team effort led by a company called 10xBETA based at the Navy Yard. It took a technician in China to create a pigeon-light circuit. And an American manufacturer made containers for the equipment that volunteers snapped into the leg bands.

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