Pigeons may be as integral to city living as traffic and pollution, and perhaps as annoying and potentially dangerous. These birds can cause property damage and carry diseases. However, there are humane ways to minimize pigeon damage and risks. We’ve also explored some alleged solutions that simply don’t work or are not recommended.
The problems with pigeons
Pigeons often carry salmonella and other diseases. Their nests can harbor bird mites, bed bugs and other biting, disease-carrying insects. Pigeon droppings also are highly acidic, and can damage car paint and buildings. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, pigeon droppings can carry funguses or bacteria that cause the human diseases cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis and psittacosis. Exposure to these diseases happens primarily when cleaning up pigeon droppings.
Solutions that work
You may have noticed that pigeons are everywhere. Getting rid of all the pigeons may be unrealistic. You can reduce nesting populations in your immediate area by inspecting your property for nests, and removing nests and eggs every two weeks. More importantly, focus on keeping pigeons out of buildings and other spaces.
- Wire mesh and wire: Screen all soffit vents and other potential entry points with rust-proof wire mesh. University of Florida professor William Kern also recommends suspending a thin wire or monofilament about two inches above a railing or other potential roost, or adding sticky substances, deterring pigeons from resting on the rails.
- Sheet metal: To keep pigeons off ledges and other flat potential roosts, cover them with a sloping piece of sheet metal. A slanted metal board doesn’t make much of a roost.
- Bird netting: Another option is to use bird netting to seal off spaces above barn rafters and other potential roosts.
- Scare-pigeons: The pigeon equivalent of scarecrows also may be an option. Among the most effective “scare-pigeons” are kites with hawk silhouettes and light Mylar streamers. Both move easily in the wind, scaring off birds. On the other hand, pigeons will quickly grow accustomed to a model owl that sits in one spot for a while.
- Spray pigeons with water: Kern even recommends spraying pigeons with a water hose, but notes that the birds must be sprayed upon arrival, before they start to establish a regular roosting spot. Once they have established a roost, your impromptu showers won’t keep them from going home.
- Pigeon traps: If you fail to exclude pigeons or prevent roosting, you may need to make a trap or buy a commercial trap. Be sure to check each trap at least once a day, and leave water in the trap, to attract more birds and minimize stress on any birds that get caught. Also immediately release all other birds you were not aiming to catch.
Solutions that don’t work
Though pigeons can cause damage and carry diseases, they also can be effectively controlled. However, not every alleged pigeon control works. Here are a few urban legends:
- Loud noises: Loud noises have been suggested for controlling birds, but they are more likely to annoy neighbors than pigeons. City birds are used to city noises, and don’t seem to startle easily.
- Ultrasonic noises: Ultrasonic noises that humans cannot hear may avoid annoying the neighbors, but Kern notes that ultrasonic sound waves bounce off objects, creating spots where pigeons can avoid the sound. Also, ultrasonic devices may damage the hearing of cats and dogs.
- Distress calls: There are no effective distress calls that can be used to target pigeons.
- Poison and chemical repellents: Pigeon poisons and chemical repellents are available, but they are strictly controlled for several reasons. They can kill or sicken other birds or animals, or even somebody’s prized racing pigeon (yes, there are pigeons racing clubs. If you trap a tagged pigeon, click here for information on returning the birds).