|Pigeons in our Environment
|Most of the pigeons you see around a city,
or any building, bridge or structure, are pigeons that were
born and raised close by. A few may be "vagrants" and
constantly on the move, but most of them are your neighbors.
Pigeons might properly be called "rock doves," indeed,
that's the natural place for them to be, in small rocky
outcroppings. It's just that man's many artificial
structures offer so many excellent nesting areas.
|Pigeons are also used to people, who tend to feed
them, contributing to their increased populations. Pigeons can
subsist on just about any kind of diet, and will crowd out songbirds
that feed near them. Pigeons are strictly diurnal, daytime animals,
and they seek out a safe place to roost every night, and will only
fly at night when disturbed.
In a local population of pigeons, there will be a few dominant
birds, usually the breeding males, followed by the local population
of fertile females, juveniles and mated pairs. The dominant birds
are alphas, all the rest are omegas, and each breeding male can
control many omegas, depending on the other resident populations.
The dominant males come and go, sometimes staying in the area. The
juveniles, if they survive a winter or two, become breeding males,
or females, in their own territory, which can be yards or miles away
from where they were born.
Pigeons of any kind are creatures of habit. They are not disturbed
by replicas of owls or hawks, (for very long) and will even become
used to moving doors or machinery after a few days. A railroad line
usually has a large building for the inside repair or inspection of
railroad cars, and the pigeons will wait, very patiently, for the
doors to open, when a car is brought in or removed. They swoop in
or out quickly as the doors open. They have this routine down to a
"T" and know they can get in by just waiting long enough.
In today's world, the common structure-dwelling pigeons have become
the avian equivalents of city rodents. "Flying rats," as they have
been described. Unfortunately, forced into this role by man, as much
as by their own natural instincts and habits. First and foremost to
the problem of overpopulation, are the numbers of nooks and crannies
that modern man builds into the exterior of all of his structures,
forming the basic home unit of a pigeon. This means that almost
every bridge or large structure harbors a certain number of these
(or other) birds. Not good.
DON'T FEED THE BIRDS
Pigeons have also become habituated to humans, by being extensively
fed by humans, in almost every culture, which only aggravates the
problem. Pigeons, domesticated for thousands of years, are easily
tamed and handled by humans. It is important to note that NO wild
animals, including wild pigeons, should be fed, at any time, for any
reason, by anyone. This is MOTHER NATURE speaking....
|UNUSUAL PIGEON FACTS
Remember to respect the pigeon. This chubby little bird has the
uncanny ability to find it's way home, no matter what, and no matter
from where. To date, science can only theorize as to exactly how
the pigeons do this. Trying to discover or prevent pigeons from
returning home, researchers have tried to confuse them in every way
possible. By transporting to a remote location: In the dark, in
randomly rotating cages, with strong or weak magnetic fields, with
flashing lights, and even anesthetized, or any combinations of
these, (and others too) none seemed to affect their navigation
skills, even in unfamiliar territories. Pigeons are suspected of
using magnetic structures already known to be in their brains, but
there was still no change in their ability, even when tiny,
removable magnets were attached to their heads, supposedly to
confuse these structures.
Most people couldn't tell the difference between a racing pigeon and
a regular pigeon. Hobbyists race homing pigeons all over the world
and U.S. hobbyists all across North America. They do lose birds
occasionally, and those years when there is a poor return rate of
the birds are said to correlate with strong magnetic storms.
Alternatively, the birds may have found a more appealing park or
gutter en route. Some pigeons you see on the street, therefore,
would be the pigeons that didn't make it back home.
|This courageous little bird easily rides out
hurricane winds. If caught in the open, they hold onto a perch,
face into the wind, and close their eyes. Pigeons hiding in their
favorite roost are often evicted by hurricanes and other weather
events, but if they survive, and they usually do, they will find
their way back!
|A pigeon can go, if necessary, a long time without
food or even water. Most birds need a constant water source and
will visit every day. Pigeons are also unusually skilled in finding
water and food sources, and rarely have trouble. Individual pigeons
can have a home range of 150 miles, although most will stay close to
home, which is generally considerably less than 25 miles or so. If
their food and water sources change drastically, however, they will
easily migrate, en masse, to another spot, near or far, with better
provisions. A few will always remain to keep a viable population.
SPECIAL NOTE OF CAUTION
These feral pigeons often carry a wide variety
of very infectious and hard to diagnose
diseases. For this reason, you can consider
these pigeons as completely different from the
pigeons that pigeon fanciers race and show.
Rescued pigeons, or birds of any kind, should
not be handled, taken home or to animal
shelters. Actual domestic pigeons that have
escaped from individual owners, are usually
tagged and can be identified by the
Association. Their web page contains
information and a link to report
lost pigeons. The pigeon's owner will
certainly appreciate any information you can
|EFFECTIVE PIGEON CONTROL
Probably the most effective control is exclusion. You EXCLUDE them
from the area. This, sometimes, is not an easy proposition. Bridges
and other superstructures offer many areas that pigeons enjoy
roosting on, and depending on how these structures are built, it can
be difficult, if not impossible, to exclude the pigeons.
|Physical barriers consist of
netting or "porcupine" strips, constructed of
needle-sharp barbs which are designed to keep the
birds away from a roosting area. They help. However,
the birds will gather sticks, leaves and other
debris to cover the barbs, and if they are not
maintained, the pigeons will be back. Netting also
helps, but both methods need to be installed, so
planning where and how these devices are to be
placed is very important.
|The pigeons will exploit every crack or crevice,
and will certainly find every flaw of your well planned exclusion
effort. Although pigeons are not very smart, they are creatures of
habit and will try to return to the same places as before.
|TOXICANTS AND POISONS
In certain areas, the use of a toxicant for pigeons is allowed for
the control of pigeons. There are several types, the two most often
used is strychnine and a product with the brand name of "Avitrol".
Both are used exactly the same way, by pre-baiting with ordinary
feed corn, then when the pigeons are accepting the bait readily, the
corn is laced with the toxicant and doled out to the pigeons.
Here in our New Jersey, we are currently using but one substance for
pigeon control, Avitrol, manufactured by the
This is the
label and the
MSDS. When Avitrol is mixed with our regular feed corn and
dispensed to the pigeons, it is designed to evoke the "fear"
response, causing disruption of the colony, upsetting roosting and
nesting behavior, and they tend to disperse. Some individual
pigeons, however, because of their dominance, may consume more
toxicant, and thus be affected more. Also, because of their
disrupted flight behavior, some pigeons may attract attention by
"acting funny" or colliding with obstacles, vehicles or structures.
Mostly, however, it is designed to "chase" the pigeons away. Applied
correctly, with the right pre-baiting techniques, and in our
experience, it has worked well. Here in New Jersey, a health
official usually needs to issue their Official Permission Letter
before any chemical control is used.
|HOW TO DO IT
First of all, you must become intimate with the pigeons. Study
their habits in the environment you plan to protect. The following
are some of the items you must consider:
|ARE THEY BEING FED BY PEOPLE AROUND THE AREA?
If so, do what you can to end this practice. Feeding pigeons, of
course, only attracts more pigeons. If you have control of the
people feeding the pigeons, exhort them to stop. If they are not
under your control, speak to the parties involved, tell them of your
problems, or enlist a trusted third party to do so. Some people are
inveterate bird feeders and cannot understand that feeding any wild
animal is not wise. The last resort would be the local health
department officials. You should also check with local health
officials about your local laws regarding pigeons.
|OTHER LOCAL FOOD SUPPLIES?
Do they get any food from natural sources? Are there trees or
shrubs around that have fruit or nuts that are eaten by the birds?
It is important to identify these places so they can be taken into
consideration in your bait placements or survey sites. Local water
sources, especially those close to a food supply can be considered a
place a pigeon will visit during the day.
|ARE THEY THERE ALL THE TIME?
That is, do you see them all day, most of the time, or do they just
return in the afternoon and evening? You should take a survey, on
paper, of exactly what is going on. The number of birds you see, at
what times of the day, what they do, how many dominant birds there
are, and how many are "in season" - there are many factors to
consider. The more information you collect, for at least a two to
four week period, should yield some of the answers as to how
successful your bait control campaign will be and how you are going
to proceed for the optimum results.
For this reason, bird control is best done over long-term periods
(years) by one exterminator who is then thoroughly familiar with the
job and the local pigeon populations. So if you choose an
exterminator to do this job, remember that this will be a long-term
association, so pick carefully. (For hints on choosing YOUR
exterminator, for any situation, go
|If they're only roosting there at night, "capture"
or "exclusion" might well be the best method. To "capture," you use
a commercial pigeon trap, (not very effective, and hard to use) or
you can rig a net from rope and bird or fish netting to capture
them, springing your previously constructed "netting trap" only
after the pigeons return and have settled down for the night. This
is only good for a few birds, nesting in one area. This area must,
of course, be easily adaptable to this method. What you do with
your captured pigeons is basically up to you, (check local and state
regulations) but remember, they have the innate ability to return to
the very same spot from thousands of miles away, so releasing them
somewhere else usually means they might well be back that night.
Feral pigeons are confirmed health pests, so do not take pigeons to
animal shelters. Contact a local exterminator with your request, and
arrange for him to pick up your birds. Your cost will probably
depend on whether he picks up the birds, or if you take them to him.
Don't use your car because of health risks. Usually, it's best to
have the exterminator collect them.
If the pigeons are actual residents, a baiting campaign can be used
to augment your capture and exclusion program. This is when your
(or our) survey is so important.