Should you be worried about pigeons?

If I say the word ‘pigeon’, it will conjure up an image in your head. In an urban environment this will probably be a ‘rat with wings’. However, if I say the word ‘dove’, you may well think of the second day of Christmas or Pablo Picasso’s ‘Dove of Peace’, a modern interpretation of an Early Christian symbol. Doves are seen as positive, but pigeons need to work on their public image.

The truth is many of what we Londoners call pigeons are in fact doves. The feral pigeons we see in Trafalgar Square are actually rock doves. To quote the RSPB, “there is no strict division between pigeons and doves.”

It’s easy to see why a rock dove would find our urban environment attractive. In many ways, our high-rise office buildings are a perfect substitute for a cliff face. This makes them ideal places to roost and nest and, being in an urban environment, they are also protected from many of their natural predators.

Are Pigeons Dangerous?

When you hear a pigeon coo it is hard to imagine that they can present a threat to human health. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

The British Pest Control Association recently published a study that found nearly 50% of feral pigeons were carrying Chlamydia psittaci. This can lead to ornithoses in humans, a nasty disease with symptoms that include chills, fever, sweating, severe weakness, headache, blurred vision, pneumonia and, in extreme cases, possible death.

In January 2019, pigeon droppings were also thought to be a “contributing factor” in the death of a child at a Glasgow hospital. Other pigeon related diseases include Histoplasmosis, Toxoplasmosis, and infections related to the Campylobacter, E. coli and Salmonella pathogens.

Pigeons are not themselves dangerous, but the pathogens contained within their faecal waste can be dangerous to humans.

What Are the Chances of Getting These Diseases?

In fact, pigeon-related diseases are uncommon in the UK, which is not the case in other countries, including the US. Unless you are directly dealing with pigeon nests or waste, it is unlikely you will encounter the pathogens that cause the diseases. When we deal with pigeons, we always wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure we are protected from these pathogens.

For most Londoners, the main problem is that pigeons are a nuisance. Roosting birds defecate down buildings, making them look dirty. For a business, this doesn’t give the right impression. Imagine you must choose between two restaurants – one is clean and the other has pigeon guano down its front – you are going to choose the clean restaurant because its façade suggests an attention to detail and cleanliness.

Pigeon waste can also create a slipping hazard. Businesses and property managers have a duty of care to ensure their buildings and surrounding areas are safe. A pavement covered in guano can be slippery, which could result in injury.

How Do We Get Rid of Pigeons?

Firstly, it is important to remember, “all wild birds and their eggs in the UK are rightfully protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.” It is strongly recommended that you do not attempt to deal with the problem yourself.

Secondly, these birds are often roosting in inaccessible places as a form of protection. It is therefore dangerous to try to reach them without the proper equipment and specialised training.

There are two main things you can do to protect your property from pigeons.

  1. Cut off their food supply – pigeons like an easy meal and so if you remove food sources they will move elsewhere. In your garden, this means removing food that has fallen on to the floor, ensuring bin lids are shut and covering compost heaps. Also, discourage people who think it is okay to feed them!
  2. Stop them roosting – there are multiple methods available, including netting and spikes. The intention isn’t to harm the bird, simply to make them move somewhere else.

Again, it should be emphasised that accessing the places where bird proofing measures need to be installed can be difficult and dangerous. It is therefore highly advisable to seek fully insured, well-trained professional help if you have a pigeon problem.

London Network for Pest Solutions has considerable experience in quickly, safely, and discreetly dealing with bird problems. If you would like to talk to us about your bird pest problems, call us on 020 8430 4133 or email here.

Image by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay