Problems with pigeons
Pigeons were domesticated by man thousands of years ago as a source of food and fertiliser. The feral pigeon can now be found in cities worldwide.
Rock doves inhabit rocky cliffs, and their descendants, the feral pigeon, occupy the same niche in the urban environment. They perch and nest on ledges, roofs, window sills, under bridges. They are highly sociable animals, often found in flocks, feeding by day and roosting by night.
Pigeons can breed at the age of six months. They lay normally two eggs in a flimsy nest constructed in a sheltered site, and incubate them for 16-18 days. The young feed for several weeks on pigeon “milk” from their parents. They leave the nest after five weeks, but still rely upon parental feeding for a further week or two before becoming independent. By this time the parents are able to commence the breeding cycle again, and this ability to breed up to six times per year allows the pigeon population to rapidly expand or replenish itself. Pigeon populations are primarily dependent upon the availability of food, which is of great importance when considering population control.
Their natural diet is grain and seeds, but they also scavenge on food discarded on urban streets.
So what's the problem?
Many people like urban wildlife and enjoy feeding birds. However, sometimes pigeons can pose problems, particularly when they occur in large numbers.
Bird droppings are unsightly and their acid corrodes stonework and damages buildings. Droppings on pavements can become slippery when wet and pose a hazard to passing pedestrians.
Droppings, nest material and dead birds can block guttering and drains and cause water damage to buildings. In addition dead pigeons in uncovered water tanks can contaminate the water supply.
Many problems arise when neighbours overfeed birds, which can attract lots of pigeons. There are no laws the Council can use to stop people feeding birds. However, if a large amount of rotting food accumulates, or the feeding is attracting rats or mice, the Council may be able to help.
If the feeding is simply causing nuisance from droppings etc., it is a private matter between neighbours. Try approaching your neighbour to explain the problems that are being caused, and ask them to reduce the amount of food they provide in order to reduce the number of birds that are attracted. A gradual reduction in food will not cause the birds to starve. They will seek food elsewhere and reduce their breeding naturally. In this way populations can be humanely reduced.
Excessive feeding can actually harm pigeons as it can cause overcrowding at feeding sites, and promote the spread of disease among birds. In addition, many pigeons are killed each year by people trying to reduce their numbers. People should try to ensure that the number of birds they attract does not cause a problem which might cause a neighbour to hire a pest control company to have them killed.
There are a number of pigeon proofing devices which can be used to prevent or deter pigeons from roosting or nesting on your property. It is advisable to leave such work to professionals who can determine the most appropriate system for your circumstances, and install it to maximise its effectiveness.
Are they a health hazard?
Many people express concern that pigeons pose a health hazard to humans, but this fear is generally unfounded and exaggerated.
Pigeons, like other birds, can suffer from some diseases that can also affect humans. However, with the exception of people whose jobs or hobbies bring them into close contact with large numbers of birds or their droppings, the actual risk of disease transmission from casual contact is negligible.
Nevertheless, it is important to employ good hygiene practices, like washing your hands thoroughly after contact with pigeons or their droppings, to prevent breathing in or ingesting any matter which could cause illness.
Birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law, and it is illegal to destroy or interfere with them except under licence. Even where their destruction is licensed, non-lethal methods must be considered first, and many killing methods are outlawed. Lethal methods should always be left to pest control professionals.
However, for most pigeon problems, lethal methods are totally ineffective. They simply reduce competition for food and shelter, and the remaining birds increase their breeding rates to compensate. Although there is an immediate decrease, numbers soon recover, resulting in an endless cycle of killing and re-population. Reduced food supply, coupled with pigeon proofing where appropriate and possible, is the key.
The Council does not provide any pest control services for dealing with pigeons, but we can refer you to a humane deterrence service or the Council’s pest control contractor, who will charge for this service. Alternatively, you can arrange for such service directly with another company.
Can the Council stop my neighbour from feeding pigeons?
No. There is no law available to stop a person from feeding wild birds.
We may be able to take action in serious cases, where rotting food is accumulating, or where the feeding can be shown to be the cause of an infestation of rats or mice.
If your neighbour is a tenant, such behaviour, especially on communal grounds, may be covered by tenancy rules. You should contact the housing officer or Landlord to inquire.
If your neighbour won’t stop or reduce the feeding, and you are having problems with pigeons perching or nesting on your property, you can contact a pest control company that specialises in birds.
They will be able to advise you about the various pigeon proofing options that may be appropriate for your circumstances.
Please note, it is illegal to kill any bird, or destroy their eggs or nests, without a government licence. Don’t be tempted to do it yourself.
If you wish to contact the Council’s pest control service, please telephone 020 8891 7800.If you have any comments or if you require more information or assistance, please telephone the Neighbour Nuisance Officer on 020 8891 7737