UnExCo Home
Pest Info Page
Current Projects

Pigeon Control

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.
common pigeon

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.

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....

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.

This is probably part of why humans have been using some varieties of pigeons to carry messages to one another for the last 3000 years, long before the first conference call services were invented in 1956.

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.

                         A 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 National Pigeon Association.  Their web page contains information and a link to report lost pigeons.  The pigeon's owner will certainly appreciate any information you can supply.

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.

Detailed View
plastic porcupine strips
Physical barriers consist of bird 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.

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 Avitrol Corporation.  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.

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:

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.

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.

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 here.)

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.

And, of course, if you're not ready to do all of the above, we can do it all for you!  Just call for details.

Image of nav2pest.gif