Safety and first aid

Feral pigeon control

The feral pigeon is a descendant of the domestic homing pigeons introduced to Australia from European settlers.image of a pigeon

Feral pigeon flocks have increased in numbers and dominate the urban landscape, agriculture and country towns due to the availability of:

  • food
  • fresh water
  • secure breeding sites.

As a result, there has been an increase in feral pigeon numbers in many areas of Western Australia.

Action needs to be taken to help rectify the feral pigeon problem before the problem escalates.

Pigeon facts

  • They have a life span of 3 to 4 years in the wild and up to 16 years in captivity.
  • Pigeons are monogamous. A mating pair will have 3 to 4 broods per year of 1 to 2 eggs each.
  • Eggs are a solid white colour. They hatch in 18 days.
  • The young leave the nest within 35 days.
  • Pigeons do not migrate. They stay near their birth site (which may be your home).

Identifying a feral pigeon

The standard feral pigeon is generally:

  • blue-grey with a white rump
  • has iridescent feathers on its head and neck
  • has 2 broad black bars across each wing
  • has a broad dark band across the end of the tail.

Feral pigeons can also display white, brown or grey plumage.

Problems and health risks

The presence of pigeons can result in a range of problems. These can include:

  • attracting ticks, cockroaches and rats
  • damaging buildings and monuments due to the highly corrosive nature of acid in pigeon droppings
  • damaging properties by pigeons roosting/breeding in roof spaces, rolled steel joists and inside factory units
  • debris from roosting flocks building up, causing gutters and drains to block, damage to roofs and other structures, and creating potential fire hazards
  • extensively damaging air-conditioning units and other roof top machinery
  • pigeon droppings in/on industrial, commercial, and domestic buildings causing hygiene concerns
  • introducing weeds and disease through pigeon droppings
  • increasing the risk of disease and parasite transmission between feral, domestic and seabird populations
  • escalating costs through public liability insurance from slipping on dropping build up.

Does your property have a pigeon problem?        

Many property owners do not realise their building has a feral pigeon problem.

Factors which indicate a pigeon problem on your property include the following:

  • 1 or 2 pigeons frequenting your yard/property
  • an accumulation of pigeon droppings on or around your property.

Once you recognise your property has a pigeon problem you will need to take action to prevent pigeons from roosting and nesting on/in the building.

If no action is taken the problem may escalate and more cost will be involved.

In the majority of cases, if corrective action is taken, the property should be pigeon proofed indefinitely.

Control techniques

Research has shown that only using lethal methods to control pigeons (culling) has its limitations as a long term control strategy.

Non-lethal control techniques

Implementing non-lethal control techniques is the most effective long term solution to reducing the pigeon population.

Food reduction

Remove sources of food and water such as:

  • outdoor pet food bowls
  • bird baths
  • bird feeders.

Ensure that rubbish, especially from a food premises, is properly stored and food spillage is kept to a minimum.

Destruction of nesting sites

Pigeon nests are very simple and often consist of a few stiff twigs.

Look for nests along building ledges, bridge supports, air-conditioning units, window sills etc.

Pigeons are very persistent and destruction of the nest at regular intervals is needed with a combination of other control methods.

Proofing and deterrents

It is important to prevent pigeons from gaining access to roosting and possible nesting sites by closing doorways and windows, and sealing open eaves etc.

This may be as simple as closing a window or sealing a crack or crevice using materials such as mesh or wooden panels.

Products such as netting (bird wire or mesh), wire coils or pigeon spikes prevent pigeons from landing or roosting on building surfaces.

Other methods include:

  • scare devices such as a combination of audio or visual deterrents
  • application of gel products that pigeons find sticky and uncomfortable to stand on.

It will also be in the best interest for neighbouring properties to proof their property otherwise pigeons will quickly take up residence. This would move the problem rather than reduce the flock size.

Lethal control techniques

Lethal control techniques only ever achieve short-term reduction (in most cases only 4 to 6 weeks).

The vacancies left by the removed pigeons can quickly be filled by juvenile birds.

After a few weeks the flocks may reach their earlier size or are even larger than before. Examples of lethal control techniques are listed below.

Trapping

In many instances trapping does not have a long term effect on the pigeon population.

The number of birds caught and killed during trapping operations can be replaced as quickly as the birds are removed.

If the food source remains in situ the culling may act to increase pigeon numbers in a given area above the pre-cull number.

If you decide to implement a trapping program to remove resident pigeons the source of food must be removed, otherwise the trapping exercise may be pointless.

Chemical control

Licensed pest management technicians use a painless narcotic agent (Alpha-chloralose) which the birds eat and then go to sleep.

The theory is the birds will be collected while they are asleep. They are then humanely despatched (removed).

In some instances other birds which have accidentally consumed bait fly off after eating the food and this can lead to inhumane death.

It is important that if this control option is used professional advice is sought.

Again, you must remember to remove all sources of food otherwise the exercise may be pointless.

Shooting

Licensed pest management technicians kill pigeons with a firearm to reduce pigeon numbers. This method of control can be effective where pigeon numbers are low and other options of control are limited.

Every situation will be assessed by the pest management technician to determine if shooting is a viable option.

As with all the above control methods, killing adults may also leave juvenile flightless birds in nests to die of starvation.

Remember to wear protective equipment

Proper precautions must be taken when tackling bird control projects, whether you are doing it yourself or if the work is undertaken by a licensed pest control operator.

Respirators, goggles and protective clothing should be worn when cleaning bird sites, particularly those shaded with large amounts of droppings present.

Please note: poorly designed or maintained pigeon proofing can lead to birds becoming fatally trapped. It is important for such products to be installed by a professional.

More information

  • Environmental Health Directorate
    WA Health
    PO Box 8172
    Perth Business Centre WA 6849
    Phone: 9388 4999
    Facsimile: 9388 4955

Remember

  • The presence of pigeons can result in a range of problems.
  • Many property owners do not realise their building has a feral pigeon problem.
  • A combination of lethal and non-lethal control techniques is likely to be the most effective long term solution to reducing the pigeon population.

Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Information about a service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace professional advice. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified professional for answers to their questions.

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