Consider an iconic image of the pigeon and you might picture a kindly old gentleman, sitting on a bench in a city park, tossing crumbs to a patient flock of birds as they gather, awaiting their handout. The pigeons coo and waddle and peck at the ground looking for treats. Now, think about the statues in that same “any park”, the benches, the trees, and picture the mess left behind by those same pigeons. It’s pretty disgusting.
Note: This is a comprehensive guide. Short on time? Skip straight to the removal and deterrent methods.
Those fine-feathered rabble-rousers move in and take over all sorts of property. Pigeons can be found deep within cities and all the way out to some suburban areas as well. And these birds are considered to be prolific breeders, so, where you see a few, there are sure to be many more.
Pigeons can be a real nuisance, there’s no doubt. And trying to persuade them to move along and bother someone else, or go visit a more bird-friendly area, can be stressful for homeowners and apartment dwellers alike. Pigeons are fairly dirty birds. They carry a host of diseases and parasites (although they are not, as once thought, carriers of the West Nile Virus), and leave pounds of droppings each year.
Pesky and Pervasive Pigeons
So, what can be done about these pesky fowl, and how can you prevent damage to your home, balcony, patio, car, and just about anything pigeons can destroy? There are many ways to eradicate pigeons from your home, or, at least, deter them and route their flight elsewhere. Most homeowners and apartment dwellers prefer a more humane approach to removing pigeons from the immediate area, and there are several successful methods which will accomplish the task.
Remember, it’s illegal in all states to shoot a wild, or nesting bird, no matter how much of a nuisance they become. You may not use a pellet gun or any other weapons, no matter how seemingly benign. These codes are strictly enforced and you don’t want to run “a-fowl” of the law.
The Fearless Pigeon
While not quite domesticated, the pigeon has enjoyed an association with human beings for centuries, and exhibits no initial fear of humans who are in their space. Pigeons were brought to the United States in the 1600’s, and raised as a source of food, and entertainment. As they grew in popularity, their numbers climbed. Breeders, essentially pigeon farmers, often could not keep up with their flock. Some of the birds were released, others escaped, and formed feral populations in the country’s oldest and most established cities, where they still rule the roost today.
Pigeons have no natural enemies, save for aggravated humans, and are prolific reproducers. They are drawn to any space resembling the rocky cliffs and hillside homes of their ancestors, such as building ledges, gables and even the eaves trough of your home. A roosting pigeon’s nest starts out rather weak, but is made sturdier, as the nesting season moves forward, by their own droppings and the droppings of their young.
One Tenacious Bird
As the pigeon population grows, the nestlings return to their home area to build more nests and raise more pigeons and so on it goes. One of the admired traits that made pigeons so popular once-upon-a-time, was their homing ability. You could release a pigeon far away from his nest site, and the bird would always find his way back home. Although admirable, this trait makes it extremely difficult to re-home, or relocate the bird, and generations of it’s offspring.
Pigeons do carry the threat of disease, and that should be of concern, especially in areas where these birds frequent, and children play.
However,the main concern of most homeowners, and apartment dwellers, when it comes to these cousins of the mourning dove, is their destructive side. Ridding your home or the area around your apartment of these destructive birds is essential for preventing the damage they inflict, but it can be frustrating to remove a house”guest” who is comfortable right where he is.
The Threat to Your Home
Pigeon droppings are disgusting, to say the least. Their feces can attract vermin, such as mice, rats, and flies, and, because it is highly acidic, will stain, and possibly eat away the underlying surface. The caustic nature of pigeon droppings has caused significant damage to roofs, especially tar-based structures, and has been known to cut the roof life in half in some cases.
The droppings can cause a huge mess to your apartment balcony and patio, staining and threatening the surfaces of your outdoor furniture. The acidic quality of pigeon droppings can eat away at your car’s paint, causing significant and costly damage to your automobile.
Anyone who’s ever dealt with pigeon “poop” on their car, home, or clothing, can tell you, it’s difficult to remove. Tar-like and heavy, pigeon droppings are not like any other bird waste. The purpose for their durable dung is to keep their nests intact for the nesting season. In short, their droppings act as a binding agent, much like mortar to bricks.
In addition to the threat to your home and car from droppings, the heavy, end-of-season pigeon nests have been known to clog gutters and eaves troughs, causing water build-up and degrading your roof, and eaves. Nesting pigeons in dormers or gabled areas of your home, apartment, or place of business, can create unsightly damage through droppings and peck around window sills.
Pigeons and Your Landscape
Living in the city provides little opportunity for landscaping, or vegetable gardening, but if you’re fortunate enough to have either, you’ll need to find a way to discourage pigeons from damaging your plants and produce. Although pigeons are not your normal garden pest, they will, given the chance, cause just enough distress, in satisfying their curiosity. You’ll need to take steps to protect your garden, landscaping, and any patio plants you may have.
Pigeons Don’t Play Well with Others
Often referred to as “bully birds” pigeons don’t have the best manners when it comes to sharing. Everyone who’s ever filled a bird feeder knows that somewhere nearby lurks a squirrel ready to spread the word that the free buffet is now open. If that bird feeder is anywhere near a pigeon stronghold, the squirrels had better get in line. No matter the seed-type or feed-type, from wild bird seed to suet, to breadcrumbs, pigeons will eat it all.
Everyone who’s had the pleasure of observing a fully stocked bird feeder knows that there are “bully birds” among patrons of the feeder. Crows, blackbirds, grackles and pigeons are the biggest offenders. Not only will they pilfer your feeder, they’ll scare off the smaller birds. Keep the peace by keeping bullies away from your bird feeder altogether.
Discouraging the Threat to your High Rise Home
For those who live in a large urban area, the threat of pigeons is constant. There’s little more you can do than simply discourage their presence. A few ways to re-route these scavenging opportunists:
- The first, and easiest way to discourage pigeons from your patio, deck, or balcony, is to fasten a wind-chime, aluminum foil pan, Mylar-type balloon, or balloons, a decoy owl or hawk, or some shiny rubber snakes in the offended area. Poke a hole in your aluminum foil pan, and fasten to your balcony railing by string.
- Try tying a Mylar balloon to your patio table, propping an owl in the corner of your balcony, where it will be visible to the pigeons, or scatter some rubber snakes in the vicinity of your porch. Most garden centers and big-box stores carry the owls and snakes for this purpose.
- You may consider anti-roosting spikes. These spikes are available at most home and garden centers, or hardware stores. They can be attached anywhere the birds roost and discourage pigeon perching by creating an “unperchable” environment. If you live in the city, you’ve likely seen these spikes on commercial and municipal buildings. They aren’t inexpensive, and installation takes some time, but they are a sure-fire deterrent and will continue to be so for years to come.
- Commercial gel-repellent also works well, especially if you’re a renter and can’t install a more permanent solution. This gel gives your solid surface a sticky, slippery, or tacky layer, which makes it impossible for the pesky perpetrator to perch. He will move to another location. As weather and wind take their toll on the gel, you will find it necessary to reapply every few weeks to months. Make sure the product you use is environmentally safe.
- For a balcony rail that attracts pigeons, a simple and low-cost option is to attach a child’s coiled “slinky” type toy along the top. The barrier of the coils, wrapped around the railing, prevent the bird from finding a comfortable spot.
- Another way to keep these feathered invaders from setting up camp on your balcony, or porch, is by creating a barrier. By using weather-proof string, you can prevent the birds from finding any negotiable way onto your balcony. Tie the string an inch or so above your balcony rail and pigeons will have a difficult time gaining a foothold on your rail. Affix mesh screen along the inside of your railing to prevent entry onto your porch or balcony.
Keeping your Suburban Home Pigeon-Free
For homeowners in pigeon-heavy areas, you have a special set of circumstances. Not only will these dirty birds cause distress by relieving themselves on every surface around your home, but these fearless fowl can annoy and aggravate by vandalizing your garden, pilfering your feeders, making a mess of your birdbath, outdoor fountain, and any statuary or yard display you may have. Your roof, soffits, gables, and eaves will also suffer if these nuisance birds are left to their own device. Put a stop to pigeon damage by utilizing these methods:
- For discouraging pigeons in and around your patio area, refer to methods for high-rise and apartment dwellers. The same methods can be incorporated for home use as well.
- Keep your trash enclosed and make sure there’s no food scraps left around. Clean up after outdoor parties and gatherings where food is served. Clean your barbecue grill after each use. Feed pets indoors.
- Organic, homemade deterrents are usually pretty effective. Place “pomanders” of strong spices, such as chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and cinnamon, around your patio and exterior window sills, or wherever pigeons tend to gather. You can take a generous amount of these spices and wrap them in cheesecloth, or simply sprinkle them along railings and sills. You’ll need to replenish frequently, but spicing up your area tends to be fairly effective in discouraging pigeons.
- Scrutinize your property for pigeon-friendly places. Soffits, vents and large gaps, up high, are instinctively inviting for pigeons to establish a nest and start a family. Once there, it will be difficult to relocate your happy homesteaders. They have long memories and will utilize a roosting site for generations. Use a fine-mesh screen over chimneys, attic vents, soffits, and open areas near your roofline. Check gutters and eaves frequently and consider commercial installation of gutter coverings.
- For sheds and outbuildings, consider bird netting, sold at garden centers, to keep pigeons out. The netting is also a great way to protect your garden from pigeons, and many other pests.
- Keeping pigeons from taking over your statuary and yard ornaments, fountains and bird bath, you can utilize the Mylar balloon, owl, or snake method. Eventually the birds will recognize the “fake” snakes and owls as such and may resume their appropriation of your yard decor, patio, picnic table, and the like. Changing where you place these scare-tactic items can ensure pigeons are properly discouraged for a time. Wind-chimes are handy for startling the birds, but you can’t always count on a breezy day.
- Some homeowners who are particularly bothered by pigeons resort to ultrasonic devices. This method employs ultrasound technology to create a sort of sonic “net” which confuses and confounds the birds, causing them to want to get away as fast as they can. Ultrasonic devices are so thoroughly successful that the method is utilized in commercial buildings throughout the agriculture business. Relatively new to the home market, an ultrasonic device can be hard to find. Check with your local garden center, or pest control expert for this specialized item.
Re-routing Pigeons from Your Business
Nothing is more aggravating to both business owners and their clientele than having to navigate around pesky pigeons. The mess they make can be extremely off-putting, to say the least. Pigeon droppings and discards are disgusting. If your patrons need to worry about the condition of your store or warehouse showroom, they may think twice before doing business with you. So, how can you pigeon-proof your store or warehouse? Here are a few ideas:
- As with high-rise and single family homes, you need to make sure your warehouse or store isn’t inviting pigeons to come “set a spell”. Hospitality should be reserved for your customers! Consider installing roosting spikes around any ledges near your roof or upper story. If you have an awning, make sure to shore-up any openings and provide a barrier against intruders.
- Especially in warehouses, make sure vented windows and ceilings are screened to prevent pigeons from entering and setting up house. Warehouse ceiling provide the perfect height for instinctual roosting. Ultrasonic devices provide an ideal way to avert the intruders with the least amount of disruption to your business. Commercial sound deterrents are designed with warehouses in mind. Commercial pest control specialists are your best source for these items.
- If your store or warehouse is in a city, and has been around awhile, employing no successful way of deterring pigeons, you may have your work cut out for you. Aggressively rerouting the birds is time-consuming, and may try your patience, however, with dedication and diligence, rehoming these birds can be accomplished. Employ a variety of all of these methods, and consider barbed wire along sills and ledges, and porcupine wire in ceiling joists and fans.
No Solution is Absolute
Short of lethally harming or exterminating pigeons, there is no sure-fire way to get rid of them. Remember, these birds have likely homed somewhere nearby for many years. They exist on just about anything for sustenance and they are year-round breeders.
Your best bet is to employ these methods of discouraging pigeons from roosting near your home or business. Dissuading these city pests is your only sure way of preventing the damage they unleash on you and your property.
Cleaning Up the Mess
If pigeons have trashed your porch, patio or balcony, you can’t simply hose-away the mess. Because of the bacteria and fungi inherent in pigeon excrement, you’ll need to thoroughly remove their droppings and nests, using a proper method.
First, wearing a mask and gloves, remove the initial debris, throw the nests away (this is not something your child should take to school for “show-and-tell”!), and sweep off any surface where pigeon debris has gathered.
Use a strong antibacterial cleaner, or, where appropriate, chlorine bleach (with great care) to scrub the area. If permitted, use a hose to remove the cleaner and make sure the area is free from any caustic properties, such as in the use of chlorine bleach.
If your building or apartment community doesn’t allow the use of a hose on your balcony, inquire with management on how to remove pigeon debris. There are many professional cleaning services who perform this task regularly.
Points to Consider
Lastly, remember there are over 300 different members of the pigeon family. From desert doves, to rock doves to mourning doves, to the more common city version, the rock pigeon, these birds have laid claim to the area around your home for centuries. Their instincts and long memories have them returning to their home again and again. Changing their pattern won’t happen overnight, but your resilience will eventually pay off.