About Pigeons & Pigeon Prevention
Click here to see prices of our Pigeon Prevention Spikes
This “About Pigeons & Pigeon Prevention ” section has been kindly written for us by Guy Merchant of The Pigeon Control Advisory Service. www.picas.org Guy is widely regarded as one of the worlds leading authority on pigeon prevention. In this section Guy will discuss the history of the pigeon, pigeons today and finally about an anti pigeon device that acts as a physical bird barrier.
History of the Pigeon:
The feral pigeon (often miss-spelt pidgeon) that we see in our towns and cities today descends from the Rock Dove (Columba Livia), a cliff dwelling bird that was widely found in coastal areas many centuries ago, particularly rocky coastlines. Unlike the Wood Pigeon (no relation) that nests in trees, the feral pigeon will almost exclusively nest on buildings and at height, which is why the species has adapted so well to modern towns and cities. Apart from man, the main predator of the feral pigeon has historically been the Peregrine Falcon, a bird that also lived and bred along rocky coastlines. Due to the inaccessibility of nesting sites on cliff faces, man was far less of a threat than were avian predators. As a result, the feral pigeon became incredibly successful as a species. Until approximately 1000 years ago it would have been a common sight in coastal areas – large flocks of several thousand birds would have not been uncommon. It is now rare to see pigeons living and breeding on cliff faces other than in isolated areas.
Over the last 1000 years, as man has developed and built towns and cities, the feral pigeon has moved inland to exploit our buildings (that replicate cliff faces) for the purpose of roosting and breeding. The feral pigeon has also learned to exploit man for food and has adapted, over the centuries, to feed almost exclusively on human food. Although the commonly held view is that man domesticated the feral pigeon, in reality it is far more likely that the pigeon domesticated itself in order to exploit man.
The feral pigeon is now found in every part of the world other than the two polar icecaps and this fact alone demonstrates, quite clearly, how adaptable the species has become and how it rightly deserves its place as one of the most successful species on the planet. The pigeon has interacted with man for thousands of years and the first recorded mention of pigeons in human history was by the ancient Egyptians in the form of hieroglyphics. The feral pigeon is also mentioned in both the old and new testaments and clay images, dating back to 3000 BC, have been found in both Crete and Iran. The feral pigeon was revered by both the ancient Hindus and Moslems and in fact still is today – members of these religious groups have become some of the most prolific pigeon feeders we see in our towns and cities today.
The pigeon is probably best known for its ability to return to its nest from considerable distances and the earliest historical mention of man’s use of the bird for this purpose is in 532 BC by a Greek poet. Thereafter, during Roman times, the bird was widely used as a messenger, to spread the results of the Olympic Games for example and two millennia later, in England, before the days of telegraphs, away supporters at football matches would release pigeons to fly back home to carry news of the score as the game progressed. The earliest large scale network of communication using pigeons was established in Syria and Persia about 5 Century BC and much later, in 12 Century AD, the city of Baghdad and all the main towns and cities in Syria and Egypt were linked by messages carried by pigeons – this was the sole source of communication.
In modern times the feral pigeon has been used to great effect during wartime and in both the first and second World Wars the pigeon saved hundreds of thousands of human lives by carrying messages across enemy lines. Pigeons were carried on ships in convoys and in the event of a U-boat attack a messenger pigeon was released with details of the location of the sinking ship and this quite often lead to the survivors being rescued. There were also mobile pigeon lofts set up behind the trenches in the First World War and pigeons often had to fly through enemy fire and poison gas to get their messages home. The birds played a vital role in intelligence gathering and were used extensively behind enemy lines where the survival rate was only 10%. In the Second World War pigeons were used less due to advances in telecommunications but they relayed invaluable information back to the allies about the German V1 and 2 Rocket sites on the other side of the Channel.
Pigeons have lived alongside man for thousands of years and in the main have been accommodated due to their usefulness either as a food source or as a messenger or even as a war hero. Now, at the end of the 20™ Century they appear to have outlived their usefulness - we simply don’t need them any more other than for human sports such as pigeon racing and pigeon shooting. Pigeons have gone from hero to zero in the last 60 years and the species is now commonly listed and treated as a pest species worldwide. Due to their origins as a cliff dwelling bird, and due to their close association with man, the pigeon is at home nesting and breeding in our towns and cities on ledges and roofs of buildings. Although a vast majority of the general public enjoys having pigeons around, they are not popular with many property owners due to the fact that roosting pigeons soil buildings with their excrement. As a result, pigeons are slaughtered in vast numbers by pest control companies the world over. Due to the ineffectiveness of lethal controls such as shooting, poisoning and trapping, and the fact that pigeons are highly intelligent and resourceful, we still see large numbers present in most towns and cities today.
Pigeon Feeders and Food Sources
So, apart from the extensive roosts and nesting sites available to pigeons in towns and cities, how are the birds sustained?
The common misconception is that pigeons are sustained on scraps of food courtesy of people littering, or people sharing their lunchtime sandwich in the park or as a result of poor housekeeping on the part of fast food restaurants. This is incorrect, at least in part. A vast majority of pigeons are sustained, almost exclusively, by deliberate and persistent feeding on the part of a small number of individuals, normally elderly or single people. These people will go out every day, 7 days a week, to feed their friends and will normally not only feed extremely high quality food such as grain and corn but also very large quantities of it. In the city of Melbourne, Australia, one gentleman arrives in the city centre each day, from the suburbs where he lives, and brings in 40 kilos of prime pigeon food which he proceeds to distribute at 4 highly sensitive locations within the central business district of the city. As a result there is a city centre flock numbering many thousands of pigeons who exploit this food source each day. Based on the British Racing Pigeon Association figures, an adult pigeon can survive on 13 grams of seed each day and therefore, the 40 kilos of seed fed to pigeons in Melbourne city centre could, in reality, sustain over 3000 pigeons.
So, how do we control food sources available to pigeons?
In the main this is the preserve of town and city Councils as they are the only bodies that can implement area-wide pigeon controls. If you feel that you have a general problem in your area you should start by protecting your own property with deterrents, ideally Defender Spikes, but in order to ensure that the problem is also dealt with at source you should also contact your local council and ask them what they are doing to resolve the problem of available food. PiCAS International offers a free expert service to all US-based councils and public bodies and PiCAS’ recommended controls, when used in conjunction with deterrents, are widely recognised to be the only effective method of reducing the size of urban pigeon flocks.
What type of food will pigeons usually exploit?
Pigeons have learned to exploit multiple food sources and although their natural diet would be made up of seeds and grains (when in season) they will exploit just about any food available to them including fast food refuse, bread, household scraps and even worms and insects when there is little or no other food available. As previously mentioned, however, deliberate feeding is the main source of food for urban flocks of pigeons. The other common food sources are food preparation outlets, retail food outlets, granaries, ports where foodstuffs are imported/exported and grain silos. Pigeons rarely, if ever, feed in rural areas, exploiting crops in fields, but when food is in short supply in urban areas some birds may resort to exploiting this food source. When flocks of pigeons are seen feeding in agricultural areas these birds are most likely to be domesticated racing pigeons and not their feral cousins.
So, we know that pigeons need very little food in order to survive, but why do we still have such huge flocks worldwide when pest control companies kill millions of pigeons every year in control operations?
This is because pigeon numbers are dictated, absolutely, by available food. If pigeons are killed as a method of control the culled birds will be replaced within a matter of weeks. In fact scientific research has shown that when culling is used as a method of control pigeon flock size will, in most cases, increase above and beyond the pre-cull figure resulting in exacerbated problems for property owners rather than the reverse. Where the food supply remains constant, pigeons will breed 4-6 times a year on average (in optimum conditions pigeons can breed more frequently) producing two young each time. If, however, the food source is reduced, pigeon numbers will drop accordingly. Pigeons will not breed if they are unable to exploit enough food to feed their young. Therefore, it is clear that many of the methods employed in the name of pigeon control are ineffective. The most commonly used control worldwide is culling, which is, in the opinion of the Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS), the largest contributory factor in the growth of pigeon flocks worldwide.
Problems with Pigeons:
Deterrents and their Installation
So, if we can control flock size simply by reducing food, what deterrents are there that will offer complete protection for a property upon which pigeons are either roosting or breeding, or both?
The only main-stream pigeon deterrent that PiCAS will recommend is the pigeon spike, or Defender Spike. This product is 100% effective if installed correctly (and in the right area of the property) and is not only inexpensive to buy but is extremely easy to install. Where most residential properties are concerned, the owner can install the product without the need to go to a specialist company – if you can climb a ladder you can install Defender Spikes. In many cases commercial property owners can also install the product in house, but if the property is a high-rise building or of a complex architectural nature, advice may be required from PiCAS International or PiCAS USA. Any US property owner can contact PiCAS for expert and specialist advice and all advice provided is free of charge due to PiCAS’ non-profit making status. PiCAS is recommended by many agencies worldwide including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) in the UK as well as the Humane Society of America and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the USA.
So, if you think you have a problem with pigeons where do you start?
In many cases it may be wise to seek expert advice from PiCAS International or PiCAS USA if the problem is entrenched or if you are unaware exactly how bad the problem is, or if indeed you have a problem at all! If the problem is obvious, i.e. if pigeons are roosting on a window ledge and soiling the building below, then you can proceed by contacting Deter a Pigeon and ordering the appropriate footage of Defender Spikes once you have measured the width and depth of the area that is to be protected. The spikes will arrive with full installation instructions and if you experience any unforeseen problems when installing the spikes PiCAS will provide the necessary advice. One very important point to remember; make absolutely sure that if there is a recess in which you believe pigeons are breeding or roosting you should thoroughly investigate the recess prior to installing Defender Spikes or blocking up the hole to exclude pigeons. If you suspect that there are pigeons in situ you should either contact PiCAS International or PiCAS USA for advice or better still, find a local wildlife rehabilitator in your area who will humanely remove the pigeon squabs (pigeon chicks) and take them away to be hand-reared and eventually released. Many property owners find that they have pigeons inside their roof void or attic; in this case it is critical to have the roof void surveyed, ideally by an experienced person or a wildlife rehabilitator, ensuring that all dependant and flightless birds are excluded prior to excluding the resident adult pigeons. It is extremely important to remember that pigeons breed all year round and therefore there will never be a time when you are safe to install deterrents without first surveying the area to ensure no dependent young are in situ. Although the height of the breeding period is usually throughout the months of March through to October, it is common to see pigeon squabs in nests in mid-winter.
Handy Installation Tips and more FAQ’s
I have pigeons on my roof – can I resolve this problem and if so how?
If pigeons are regularly roosting on a roof it means they are there for one of three reasons:
- Because the roof provides them with a vantage point overlooking a well used feeding area
- Because pigeons have accessed the roof void itself (attic space) and are breeding within
- Because the roof provides a view of a neighbor’s yard where there is a bird feeding station
In each case the source of the problem needs to be resolved as it is impossible to protect a roof against bird occupancy. Some contractors advise netting for this purpose but we would strongly advise against netting as it rarely resolves the problem, it is extremely expensive to install and netting degrades very rapidly.
The only area of a roof that can be protected is the gutter and this should be protected with appropriate Defender Spikes
in conjunction with Defender Gutter Clip.
I have pigeons roosting on my TV ariel – can I use Defender Spikes?
Yes, Defender Spikes are ideal for this purpose. The spikes are best installed by using an electrical cable tie wrapped around the base of the spike and then around the ariel itself.
I have pigeons perching on my windowsill - can I protect the sill with Defender Spikes?
Yes, Defender Spikes are ideal for this purpose and the spikes should be placed on the windowsill itself assuming that the window opens inwards or upwards. If the window opens outwards it will be necessary to attach the spikes on the base of the window frame itself so that when the window is opened the spikes move outwards as the window does. Silicone should be used to attach the spikes to the window frame but if the window frame is wooden they can be screwed in place as well, or instead of, using silicone.
I think I have pigeons nesting in my gutter – is this possible?
It is rare for pigeons to nest in a gutter unless the gutter is well protected from the elements. It is possible, however, particularly in guttering on old Victorian style properties. This problem is simple to resolve using Defender Spikes in conjunction with the Defender Gutter Clip. The Defender Spikes will not only stop pigeons nesting in the gutter but also stop pigeons perching on the lip of the gutter and fouling areas below the gutter.
I have been told to protect my property using netting – is this the best option?
In the opinion of the Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS), netting should never be used for a variety of reasons but predominantly on the grounds of cost and also the speed at which nylon (polypropylene) netting degrades. In a vast majority of cases Defender Spikes can be used in areas where netting has been advised. If netting appears to be the only option due to the fact that it would be impossible to install Defender Spikes,
‘PiCAS always recommends galvanized steel mesh which is at a similar cost to nylon netting but which remains effective for considerably longer than nylon netting does.
I have birds nesting in my chimney – can I use Defender Spikes?
Yes, we are in the process of producing a new product for this purpose – please see the Deter-a-Pigeon website for details. It is worth pointing out that pigeons do not nest in chimney pots but other species of birds do – Jackdaws in particular.
I have pigeon excrement on my ground floor windowsills – does this mean I should protect the sills with defender Spikes?
Yes, Defender Spikes are ideal for this purpose but be aware that pigeons rarely, if ever, roost or nest on ground floor windows so the areas to be protected will almost certainly be upper floor windowsills or other perching places such as external pipework. Pigeons will normally choose the highest point on a building to roost or nest and that should be the first area to investigate.
I have pigeon excrement on the ground at the side of my house but there are no windowsills or obvious perching places – where are the pigeons perching?
It is likely that if there is exposed external pipework on the side wall of the house this is where the birds will be roosting. Defender Spikes can be easily installed on the pipework to resolve the problem. A special Defender Spike has been produced precisely for this purpose and should be installed by using silicone and then an electrical cable tie to ensure the spikes remain in situ.
If there is no exposed external pipework it is likely that the birds will either be roosting under the gable on one of the roof joists that protrude through the brickwork and support the roof overhang or within the roof space itself or possibly within the soffit board, if one exists. The areas under the gable can easily be protected using Defender Spikes but if the birds have entered the roof space itself, the entry hole must be found and blocked once a thorough survey of the internal roof void has been carried out to ensure that no live birds or nests exist.
I see pigeons fly into an area below my guttering and disappear – do I need to take action?
It is likely that pigeons have found a hole in a soffit board (the box section that runs under the gutter the full length of the house) and are using the space for nesting and roosting. Defender Spikes are not appropriate in terms of dealing with this problem. The entire length of the soffit board must be inspected to ensure no live birds are present, with particular attention to young in nests, and then the soffit board must either be removed and replaced or repaired.
I have a Dormer window on my roof and pigeons appear to be roosting under the overhang of the gutter – is this possible?
Yes, pigeons often roost or even nest under the overhang created by the gutter on a Dormer window. First check to ensure that there are no live birds or nests under the overhang and then simply install Defender Spikes directly to the roof tiles running them down each side of the Dormer window covering an area of approx. 12 inches from the side wall of the Dormer. Once the overhang is protected pigeons will move elsewhere.
What do I do if I find a pigeon nest in an area where I am intending to install Defender Spikes?
It is extremely common to find pigeon nests with young present on buildings and due to the fact that pigeons breed all year around there is never a time that you can install deterrents when there will not be pigeon chicks in nests. If you do find a nest and cannot wait until the chicks are fledged, you should first try to find a wildlife rehabilitator in your area who may be able to remove the chicks and take them away to be hand-reared. If you draw a blank please contact PiCAS USA in the first instance (contact details at the end of this page) and they may be able to assist. Otherwise please contact PiCAS International – contact details also at the end of this page.
I often read that pigeons spread disease, therefore, am I safe to install Defender Spikes?
It is another misconception that pigeons are capable of spreading disease to human beings. All wild birds (including garden birds) have the potential to carry and pass on diseases to human beings and indeed other birds or animals, but the likelihood of this happening is virtually zero. To put the risk into perspective, caged birds are far more likely to pass on a disease to a human being than a pigeon or any other wild bird. In fact it is a commonly held view that salmonella, one of the diseases associated with pigeons, is far more likely to be contracted by human beings through eating supermarket eggs or chicken than through contact with wild birds
Where pigeon excrement is concerned, if it is ingested it may cause a mild stomach upset but nothing more. If pigeon excrement is very well dried (wet excrement is harmless unless ingested) and if it exists is large quantities, it can cause mild respiratory problems if inhaled for long periods. Pigeon fanciers are at greatest risk where the transmission of disease is concerned and if pigeon lofts are not cleaned regularly, pigeon fanciers are exposed to the possibility of contracting respiratory diseases as a result of breathing in the dust that is created by well-dried pigeon excrement. It must be recognized, however, that any individual contracting a respiratory disease from contact with pigeons must have been exposed to large quantities of very well dried pigeon excrement for long periods without the benefit of protective clothing. There has only been one case, worldwide, of a person dying from contact with pigeon excrement and this was a lady in the Netherlands who had a severe allergy to pigeon excrement and died from a massive allergic reaction when coming into contact with a small quantity of pigeon excrement. Common sense measures such as wearing gloves and overalls when installing spikes, and possibly also wearing a paper breathing mask, are all the precautions that it is necessary to take. Even these precautions are, broadly speaking, unnecessary as long as hands are washed thoroughly after installation. There is also no need to use a specialist disinfectant or cleaning agent when clearing pigeon excrement and preparing surfaces in order to install spikes – hot soapy water with a splash of household disinfectant is all that is required. If you have any concerns or doubts PiCAS will be happy to provide advise.
Pest Control Companies
What other control options are available to me and should I seek the advice of a pest control company?
Where independent and non-commercially biased advice is sought, PiCAS International should always be contacted in the first instance – pest control companies have a vested interest and therefore their advice may not always be in the best interest of their client. There are a vast number of different pigeon deterrents and controls available within the pest control marketplace and for a full list of these products and a brief description of their uses and effectiveness, please see the PiCAS International website at: www.picas.org
About The Pigeon Control Advisory Service:
The Pigeon Control Advisory Service is a group of organisations set up to provide advice on all aspects of non-lethal and humane bird control, but specialising in the control of pigeons. PiCAS consists of three separate organisations working alongside each other with PiCAS UK servicing the needs of all United Kingdom-based clients, PiCAS USA servicing the needs of all US-based clients and PiCAS International, the umbrella organisation, dealing with clients worldwide. With the exception of the United Kingdom, where PiCAS operates on a commercial basis, PiCAS offers a not for profit service to its client base in the USA and worldwide charging only travel expenses where a site visit or survey is required.
PiCAS will provide advice on the control of all feral bird species including waterfowl, seagulls, starlings etc and was formed to deal with an ever-increasing demand for advice on humane and effective alternatives to lethal control. PICAS will provide expert advice endorsing scientifically proven methods of control and due to its independent status, all advice provided is completely free from commercial bias. Working directly with Councils and large commercial organisations worldwide, our current list of clients include town and city councils, city centre management agencies, Housing Associations and hospitals. PiCAS is also recommended by many national and international agencies worldwide such as the Humane Society of America, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
PiCAS will provide each client with a comprehensive control programme tailored to meet their specific needs and requirements. Each control programme is designed to effect a long-term and permanent reduction in bird numbers, unlike lethal control options which have the opposite effect. Site visits can be arranged at which time a consultant will discuss all aspects of existing and past control mechanisms and carry out a site survey where required. PiCAS will then work with the client on an open-ended basis to assist with the implementation of any recommendations provided. PiCAS restricts its service to those clients that are prepared to commit to a wholly non-lethal bird control system. PiCAS will not work with any client that is actively using lethal methods of bird control.
PiCAS International can be contacted at:
Telephone: +44 1353 659599
Mobile: 07981 945662
PiCAS USA can be contacted at:
Phone: Contact details available on the website