Feral Pigeons

Many people see feral pigeons as part of our natural wildlife and enjoy seeing and feeding them. Part of their appeal is that they can become very tame and will take food from your hand. However, they can also be a serious nuisance. Many people complain to us about them and the problems they cause.

Facts About Feral Pigeons

  • Feral pigeons are descended from Rock Doves and interbreed with racing pigeons and pigeons from domestic pigeon lofts.
  • Colours vary considerably from blue-grey, through blues, reds, mottled patterns and charcoal to almost pure white.
  • The birds roost and nest on horizontal surfaces on buildings and other structures that provide a small amount of shelter. Balconies, flat roofs, ledges, loft spaces and empty buildings are often used if the birds have access.
  • Nests are constructed of twigs but can also contain rubbish such as pieces of plastic, they may even be built on or near the dead bodies of other pigeons.
  • Their natural food is grain and green vegetable matter but they will scavenge food and eat almost any foodstuff available such as dropped takeaway foods.
  • Peak breeding season is between March and July but feral pigeons can breed all year round. Normally 2 eggs are laid with 2 – 4 broods each year. The eggs are incubated for 18 – 19 days and the hatched chicks (squabs) are fledged and leave the nest after 30 – 37 days.

Feral Pigeon Problems

Disease

  • Pigeons carry a range of diseases such as salmonellosis, tuberculosis and ornithosis. Whilst there is no direct evidence that the diseases have been passed from pigeons to humans, the risk can not be discounted. Because of their potential to contaminate food and spread disease, their presence in and around food premises cannot be tolerated.
  • Pigeon droppings, nesting materials and dead carcasses can contain a wide variety of mites and insects. These can then infest areas where people live and can then cause skin irritation, disease or allergic reactions.

Damage to buildings

  • Pigeon droppings are not only unsightly but can also cause long term damage to buildings.
  • Droppings, nesting materials and feathers can block gutters and rainwater pipes causing blockages and water damage.
  • Ladders and fire escapes coated in pigeon droppings become slippery and unsafe to use particularly in wet conditions.

Hazards to pedestrians and drivers

  • Pigeon droppings and waste food left down for pigeons make pavements slippery especially in wet weather.
  • Startled pigeons may take flight suddenly and cause a hazard to road traffic.

Feeding Feral Pigeons

  • Pigeons are wild birds capable of finding their own food. Human food does not contain the ingredients that the birds require for good health.
  • Feeding pigeons attracts them to areas that are not natural to them and exposes them to risks of injury. This is why you often see pigeons with feet and wing injuries.
  • Feeding results in all year breeding that causes overcrowding. The birds become stressed and diseased with parasites spreading quickly within the flock.
  • Large flocks of pigeons can drive smaller birds away from feeding sites. The pigeons can also spread disease to other birds reducing their populations.
  • Waste food left down for pigeons can attract foxes, rats and mice.

Feral Pigeons & The Law

  • Most birds, their nests and eggs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
  • The Act allows the control of certain birds, including feral pigeons by authorised persons using specified methods.
  • The use of spring traps, poisons, certain types of nets, gassing and sticky substances that may entangle a bird are illegal.

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