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Pigeons in your area? A guide to pigeon control methods

Pigeons have a long history of use to humans and have been consumed as food, studied by Darwin and served as couriers in both World Wars. Currently, feral pigeons live in nearly all major cities and are often considered to be ‘pests’ due to their droppings and nesting habits.

pigeons on roof in the city photo by Barbara Lohnes
Photo by Barbara Lohnes

Pigeon control methods

There are three categories of methods that are used to manage pigeon populations, all with practical limitations and considerations:

  • Exclusion
  • Lethal
  • Reproductive

Exclusion methods

Exclusion methods modify an environment with physical barriers to prevent pigeons from entering or perching. This includes:

  • Spiking can be effective at deterring perching and roosting but requires regular maintenance as spikes are ineffective if debris accumulates.
  • Netting can be effective in excluding pigeons from large areas but requires regular maintenance to ensure no gaps or holes form. It’s important that netting does not ‘trap’ or entangle birds.
  • Audio and visual deterrents can be effective initially but risk habituation by pigeons resulting in a loss of their efficacy.
  • Flying raptors can be used to discourage pigeons from remaining in an area. However, this can be costly, and the pigeons may return once the raptor leaves.
  • Other exclusion methods include bird jolts, adhesive bird repellent and fog aerosols however, these methods lack empirical evaluation of their efficacy.
Lone band tailed pigeon on roof photo by John Morrison
Photo by John Morrison

Lethal methods

Lethal methods include the use of Avitrol®, a chemical frightening agent, as well as culling through trapping, killing and shooting.

Avitrol® is marketed as a substance that causes an abnormal behavioural response in pigeons that signals to other pigeons to leave the area. However, there are numerous articles confirming its lethal effects on pigeons, therefore it is considered a lethal method.

The use of lethal methods is typically labour-intensive and costly, and the effects rarely last as remaining birds quickly reproduce and replace the population. Public opposition towards culling and lethal methods is often due to animal welfare concerns, making lethal methods increasingly socially unacceptable.

two rock pigeons on wood bar by water photo by Heather Atherton
Photo by Heather Atherton

Reproductive control methods

Reproductive control in pigeons involves manual egg removal or the administration of avian contraceptive, OvoControl® P which is licensed as a pesticide for use in Canada. OvoControl® P must be ingested by pigeons daily in order to be effective but does not pose risks to secondary consumers or the environment.

Contraceptive methods for controlling pigeon populations may be challenging to implement as it doesn’t offer instant results to reduce population numbers, however, members of the public are continually choosing to replace lethal techniques with more effective and humane contraceptive tools.

Unlike most lethal methods of population control, reproductive control avoids large fluctuations in population cycles and favours stable population sizes which can reduce human-wildlife conflict.

rock pigeon drinking water photo by Christina Stobbs
Photo by Christina Stobbs

Do your part, don’t feed wildlife

Feeding pigeons and other wildlife can greatly increase human-wildlife conflicts with pigeons as they congregate where they are fed, and this can allow the population to grow by providing abundant resources.

Removing attractants, providing signs to educate on the harms of wildlife feeding and discouraging wildlife feeding will have a great impact on pigeon population management.

Achieving success in pigeon management

Ultimately, successful pigeon management relies on comprehensive and adaptable approaches that consider the well-being of pigeons and the needs of the community.

The BC SPCA recommends that management plans adhere to the 7 principles for ethical wildlife control (PDF) and consider the specific geographic features and context of the area. A combination of regularly monitored exclusion methods, reproductive control if necessary, and removal of attractants should see success!

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