I still remember running through the middle of a flock of pigeons while they’re busy pecking on the grains thrown at them in public parks and open areas. I enjoyed the sight of them flying away and again coming back for the grains.
No doubt that these creatures are cute and one of a kind, but nothing can compensate for the ridiculous quantity of feces they’re known to splatter all over your car, windows and sometime on the favorite spot at your garden.
Most of us would wake up from their sleep with the signatory cooing and ‘oorhh-ing’ of these birds. But by that time, they might have already considered your place as their roosting spot.
You might think that getting rid of pigeons is easy but practically, it gets tougher. Let’s get to know more about these birds.
What are pigeons and how do they look like?
Pigeons are birds of Columbidae family which also consists of over 300 species. These birds appear small, stout, with short necks and slender bills. They are known to have strong flight muscles which help them to fly for longer distance. A pigeon can easily be identified by looking at its deep-bluish and grey head, dark colored beak with a small piece of skin between the beak and the head called as ‘ceres’.
A pigeon also has its neck and chest area covered with a greenish color and a glossy look. The feet of a pigeon is red. The lower area of the wings are white and the wing bars appear black in color.
A grown up adult pigeon looks approximately 35cm in length and about 70 cm with the wingspan.
Where can pigeons be found?
Pigeons are very common and you can find them in every open area where food is easily accessible. You might have seen them in public parks, gardens, near supermarkets and even on the roof of your home.
They’re worldwide now except for areas with extreme cold and remotely distant. Tropical southeast of Asia, Australia and America are all covered by pigeons. They have made their presence almost everywhere.
What are the different types of pigeons?
- Racing and Homing pigeons – These pigeons mostly appear blue in color although they’re available in a variety of colors. They’re strong flyers and have strong flight muscles. They’re known for their strong homing abilities. They can return to their loft after the race events. Sometimes, if lost, they join the wild flock and live life on their terms.
- Feral pigeons – The most common breed of pigeons which you find all over those urban places like parks, shopping marts etc. They are bluish-gray in color and measure about 30-35cm in length. They can be seen roosting on your roof or by the side of your windows and other buildings wherever they can.
- Wood pigeon – They’re also pretty common in the UK and are usually found in the rural areas. They measure slightly bigger than the homing pigeons and are seen to be about 38-40cm in length. One identifying feature of this breed of pigeon are the white markings at the back of their necks. They are mostly gray in color while a bit pinkish in their breast area. The younger ones of this breed might not have those white markings.
- Rock dove or rock pigeon – Mostly the ones with pale gray body found foraging within human habitat. Distinctive feature are the two black stripes on their wings. They’re said to be quite popular breed among pigeons.
- Band tailed pigeons – They’re mostly found in the Pacific coast and within North American regions. They appear a bit different than other breeds. They have long gray colored banded tail and some visible path at the back of their neck. They grow about 14-16 inches long. Their feet and beaks are yellow in color.
- Fancy pigeons – Now they are different and you won’t find them foraging anywhere on the roads and open areas. Some hobbyist have been keeping these fancy looking pigeons as pets and sometimes to take part in bird exhibition. Pouters, tumblers and owls are such breeds which fall under this category
- Collared dove – These doves originated from Europe and now can also be found in the UK. Distinctive feature of this type of pigeons is the pinkish-gray color on its body except the black colored band at the back of their necks. They are small birds measuring about 32cm on an average.
- Turtle dove – These are even smaller birds measuring about 28cm in length. They are migratory birds and share some similarities with that of the collared doves. Distinctive feature includes the orange and black marking on their wings and whitish or sometimes pink head and breast area. Their eyes are notably with black pupil and orange colored iris. They don’t come out in human occupied areas but rather choose rural and semi-rural areas to thrive.
Lifecycle and reproduction of pigeons:
Spring and summer are the favorable season for the pigeons to breed. They’re not that great in building their nests. A pigeon nest appears flimsy and poorly built just enough to hold the eggs in it.
Common nesting areas are usually on rocky shelves in the wild, coastal cliffs or even in the roof of buildings etc. People who own them as pet usually keep them in wooden box like cages to stay in.
Pigeons can start breeding at an age of six months. They’re monogamous i.e. mate for life. They don’t lay number of eggs but only two or so. Incubation period for the eggs are about 20 days at maximum. The female parent start the hatching process at night while the male at daytime. The newly born appears yellow in color with a pink beak. Typically the fledgling period takes around a month.
They are known to live up to 15 years but on an average 3-5 years depending upon several survival parameters present like habitat, food, predators etc.
What do pigeons eat?
Seeds are the primary food for pigeons. Few species of pigeons are known to include fruits, insects, and vegetables in their diet while some species are known even to feed on small reptiles. Waste food materials are also a good source of food for pigeons and hence the reason behind them to stay nearby human habitat.
The young ones are fed by both of the parents. Both parents are known to produce ‘crop-milk’ or ‘pigeon’s milk’ which is actually a liquid that gets secreted by the stimulation of the hormone prolactin. The younger ones feed themselves with crop-milk by poking their beaks inside the throat of their parents.
Some Interesting Facts about pigeons
- Pigeons owing to its light-weight bones and strong muscles, can fly at 6000 feet and even at higher altitudes with an average observed speed of 77mph with a capacity of covering 700 miles a day
- Pigeon racing is very popular sport worth million dollars
- Pigeons are amazingly intelligent birds who is considered the only one to pass the mirror test of recognizing itself
- They can see better than us with the ability to see colors and even UV rays
- Pigeons unlike most other birds, drink liquid by sucking and not by swallowing
- They’re thought to be capable of sensing earth’s magnetic field and use the sun to navigate its direction
- Their excrement has been utilized for making fertilizers and even gun-powder
- Pigeons had been used widely in the times of world war first and second to exchange important military messages which even helped several countries during the warfare to design their strategies and were awarded for their bravery and intelligence
- They have better hearing abilities than us and can detect low frequency sounds like storms and volcanoes from far
- Many religions like Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Christianity etc. has made pigeons as an icon and symbol to some or the other kind of beliefs they had. In India, many people consider pigeon feeding act as sacred and is thought to be feeding their ancestors who transformed into pigeons after their soul departed
- Many Indian cinemas have also involved pigeon as a messenger in their stories and even had written songs on them. India has discontinued pigeon mail service in the year 2004 and declared them retired and released them to live a free life
- Prehistoric human and even now, pigeon meat is consumed and considered as a delicious food
- Most importantly, they are considered as a symbol of peace. Remember the dove holding an olive branch?
- They’re very social and hence roam around in big flocks
- They can even identify different people in a single photo
Damage caused by pigeons:
America itself has estimated millions of dollars of damage done by these birds almost every year to the buildings, machineries and roofs etc.
Let’s talk about the damages that are caused by these birds.
- Damage to roofs – Bird droppings eventually can eat away the substrates of the roof material which will result in leakage during rainfalls. This roof will thus get damaged gradually.
- Damage to drainage in roofs- Their nests can create a blockage to the roofs and this will let the water unable to pass through resulting in roof damage eventually.
- Damage to large equipment – Do you have an air conditioning system at your place? Well, bird droppings might hamper such equipment.
- Damage to health- Bird droppings are said to be unhealthy and poisonous to humans causing several diseases like encephalitis, Cyptococcosis, meningitis and histoplasmosis etc. Again, the nest they build can even form a blockage to the house ventilation system which can be really harmful for the people living in that house. Even while removing the droppings, you should wear gloves and take precautions so that you don’t get in direct contact with these.
- Damage to your shiny automobile- Pigeon dropping is acidic in nature and thus when they excrete on your automobile, the polished shiny paint of your vehicle might fade which I am sure you’ll hate.
- Damage to history – Bird droppings are also responsible in causing damage to historic monuments and causing discoloration. That history shall get tainted!
How to get rid of pigeons?
Best natural way for pigeon control:
- Remove easy food sources – One reason why they stay near human habitat is due to easy availability of food. Remove all kind of grains and other food sources like trash cans to make food availability difficult for pigeons
- Removal of water resources – This is one more way to make your property look less likely for roosting.
- Remove the nests – Hope you can climb to some extent. Or you can use a pole or some stick long enough to reach their nests and scramble things in it. You need to do this in alternate weeks and destroy the eggs too to make your point clear to the pigeons. Don’t worry. Destroying eggs won’t get you to hell. Anyways, they’re not endangered and are too much in population.
- Bird netting – You can cover up all kind of open spaces with the help of a bird net to discourage pigeon roosting.
- Bird trapping – Pigeon trapping is one way which you might like to try it out. In this method of pigeon removal, you need to have something like the bob trap, place broken corn and other grains inside it as bait and place one or two pigeon inside it beforehand. The pigeons might consider this place as secure source of food seeing some of their own mates already pecking. Once they come inside, they’re trapped. Now you have to repeat the same process as they’re present in huge numbers.
- Bird spikes – Pigeon spikes can be installed in the edges, ledges and beams etc. The spikes are attached with clamps which discourages and makes roosting difficult.
- Modifying ledges – In this method, the comfortable flat surfaces which are easy roosting spots are converted into slopes with an angle making it very uncomfortable and difficult for pigeon roosting.
- Use spices to get rid of pigeons – Did you know that pigeons are not that fond of spicy food or spices? Yes, they don’t like spices which means, you can apply spices like cinnamons and hot pepper over the areas of roosting and watch them fly.
- Do not feed them – I repeat, do not ever feed them. Once you do so, they know where to come when they’re hungry.
- Use honey to combat pigeon roosting- One more natural and home remedy to get rid of pigeons is to apply honey on the roosting spots or on top of the roofs so that they find it sticky and difficult to perch.
Other methods to get rid of pigeons:
- Electrifying fences – Fencing the roosting areas with a dose of electricity would be a deterrent for pigeons. But keep in mind the level of electricity so that it might not be lethal for human or other pets.
- Placing predator birds like owls and also rubber snakes – Well, this might be suggested by people but do you remember when you read about how intelligent pigeons were? You must have got the hint. If you keep thinking about how to scare pigeons, you can try doing these and even try placing reflecting things like CDs by the fences. But these won’t work much.
- Shoot them all – Well, at some areas, the law allows you to shoot pigeons with pellet guns. Make sure you are allowed to do so. But this will turn out to be your full time job if the number of pigeons is huge. However, if you continue doing so, you can nominate yourself for the next Olympics!
- Use motion sensing sprinklers in your garden to disturb the pigeons and even other birds when they land on your property.
- Eliminate pigeons electronically – You can use a device which emits ultrasonic sounds in an high spaced area like in high ceilings and turn on to a specific frequency which the pigeons won’t find soothing at all.
Chemicals to get rid of pigeons:
- Ovocontrol: This is usually applied on larger areas like in parks and open areas. This chemical laced bait dysfunctions pigeon eggs and as a result, new pigeons are not born. It’s kind of a birth control strategy for pigeons.
- Using pigeon gel repellents: Pigeon repellents comes in the form of liquids, sticky and adhesive. These are messy to apply and are also temporary but these can repel pigeons to come and roost on your property. You need to re-apply these after a wet weather to continue to process of repelling pigeons.
How to prevent pigeon roosting or simply avoid pigeons?
Preventing pigeons to come to a spot which once they considered as a proper roosting spot might be really difficult. You can try the above methods in tandem to get rid of pigeons. But after they move out of your property temporarily, you need to follow these preventive measures to make sure they don’t some back.
- Don’t leave food stuffs out in the open. Always clean up such mess.
- Always place waste foods in a trash can and close the lid tightly. Not only pigeons, but crows also get attracted to trash cans because there is always some kind of food in such cans.
- Make sure that all the vents and outlets are covered by a fine mesh screen to discourage pigeon roosting.
Finally, no solution should be considered as a permanent one. You have to try out a mix of all these methods and check which one is giving away visible results. You can connect to a professional if you feel that the pigeons are way out of your control and you need help.
1. What is the difference between pigeon and dove?
They both belong to the same family with not much of a difference. However, doves have smaller bodies in comparison and bigger tails than pigeons. The beak of doves are a bit enlarged at the beak.
2. Why do pigeons walk with their heads moving in a weird manner?
Well, that’s how a pigeon bobs it head. The reason behind is that unlike us, their eyes are placed sidewise and have monocular visions like cows. The bobbing helps them to get the depth of perception. So while they move forward, their head remains static and follows later.
3. Who poses a real threat to pigeons?
Leaving aside owls and other predatory birds, humans are now a real terror to pigeons especially for feral pigeons. Pigeon killings are growing and thus a threat to them.
4. Can pigeons be kept as pet?
Yes. In fact, humans have been keeping them as pet since long time.