In Waterlooville, quite close to where I am based, they are having a situation that is far from rare (and one that is so wonderful to work with). See the following three pages:
Apparently, some residents and shopkeepers are experiencing problems with pigeons while other residents are feeding the same pigeons, eh, up to 8 kilograms bird food per day? (I am sure I have misunderstood that, because that is a heck of a lot of bird food.)
Both sides are right, of course. While pigeons rarely spread disease – a common myth – their droppings can be unsightly and, well, a pain in the butt. Pigeons are also very smart creatures for which we are actually responsible, however, as it was us who took these birds from the sea cliffs in the countries where we found them in the past. We took them with us, and spread them all over the world because we liked them. Yep. We also used them as messengers, of course.
So what’s a pigeon gonna do? It has no choice but to use our buildings and bridges to roost and nest, as those are the only things that come close to the sea cliffs they once had in warmer countries.
And apparently, even if they are told that the birds will be killed unless they stop feeding them, many people who feed pigeons will continue to feed the birds. It is understandable. If you’ve only once seen a pigeon trying to eat some utterly disgusting piece of greasy fast food that made us gag and throw it away and that gets grease all over the bird and barely any nutrition into it, then you start feeling an obligation toward these gentle rock doves. Again, after all, we’re the ones that brought them here.
(In fact, when you look at the pigeons around you, you can also often see that the local pigeons breed with the white pigeons released on various festive and memorial occasions!)
While many city councils may feel powerless when dealing with a pigeon problem, there is actually a solution. After Nottingham City Hospital tried it in 1999, they were astonished. The pigeon population was reduced from 1200 pigeons in 1999 to 63 pigeons in 2005, only 5 years later. That is a 95% reduction in flock size without killing a single bird! Nottingham City Hospital also won the prestigious RSPCA Best Practices Award for its work with a pigeon organisation that sadly no longer seems to exist. (But this one does: http://www.pigeoncontrolresourcecentre.org/html/reviews/artificial-breeding-facilities.html. And that page has more examples and cost estimates, too.)
Think like a pigeon! What does a pigeon want? A good place to sleep, sheltered from the elements. A good place to nest too.
(And the best food you can get, because good food helps you stay healthy.)
Our buildings often don’t actually offer pigeons a lot of good shelter, so you can entice pigeons to move out by offering them a better alternative. You can place artificial roosting and nesting structures – modern dovecotes and pigeon lofts – in parks or on flat roof tops. They’re also called artificial breeding facilities or ABFs.
They enable you to decrease pigeon pressure elsewhere by attracting the pigeons to them. They can also allow you to control and maintain a healthy pigeon population (which requires a DEFRA licence just as it is also against the law to kill any kind of wild bird without a licence).
When I read that in Waterlooville, pigeons apparently are roosting (?!) on balconies where the human inhabitants don’t want them, I concluded that those pigeons must be very desperate. So that would mean that this solution might work particularly well in Waterlooville.
I bet it is possible to engage those who are currently feeding the pigeons in locations where they cause problems in a pigeon control and relocation project, leading to good results for everyone.
Put yourself in a pigeon’s shoes. Where would you like to sleep? In a nice condo or in a leaky shed that may not even have a roof? Pigeons are damn smart. It’s easier to work with their intelligence than against it. Some pigeons routinely take the tram or metro and one has even been spotted taking the ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo and back.
Need more convincing? Ha! Watch these 46 minutes by National Geographic.
The artificial structures can be made from scrap materials at almost no cost. They can also be made from recycled plastic, which is sturdy, completely non-toxic (environmentally friendly) and totally maintenance-free. It is highly durable.
You can get it from Kedel, who were the winners of the 2015 ‘Best Recycled Product’ award and are based in Colne, Lancashire, Second Life Products Wales (SPLW), who are based in Swansea and British Recycled Plastic, who are based in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire.
With a bit of luck, ha, you can even tie such a project to your own local plastic recycling. You can also come up with ways to let the structures fund themselves, partly or fully. (Allow people to name a pigeon or sponsor a “floor” in the structure, volunteer in all sorts of ways, what have you.)
You can combine it with all sorts of educational activities (responsibility for our own environment including for example recycling) or use it to, say, connect different generations. You can include it in primary school teaching. Lots of stuff you can do with it, I am sure.
Now, if I were such a borough or city council, I’d jump at such an opportunity to make many people happy, and get lots of kudos without ticking anyone off.
If the pigeons already know one or two people who feed them, they are likely to follow those people, who can lead the pigeons away, in daily steps. And you can also teach pigeons sound signals to respond to (signals they associate with the food).
The Royal Family has been keeping pigeons for many decades, by the way.
When I searched for the problem on Twitter, for Waterlooville, I only found four tweets, none recent.