Pigeons can be a serious nuisance. If you are experiencing a pigeon issue, it is likely some type of common pigeon, also known as rock doves or Columba livia, that is causing the problem.
These birds vary in coloring but commonly have a grey body with black and white markings and purple and green coloring around their neck area. Pigeons have been known to cause pest control issues worldwide, from the Americas to India, throughout Europe, in New Zealand, and beyond.
Pigeons can densely populate areas that provide food, water, and shelter for them. Their nesting materials, feathers, and droppings can pile up and spread down the sides of walls and underneath spots where the pigeons like to perch. Accumulation of pigeon droppings has been known, in some circumstances, to cause roof leaks and other damage.
Not only are pigeon droppings unsightly, but they can also spread disease. According to the Boston Public Health Commission, exposure to pigeon droppings can put you at risk for certain illnesses.
While instances of these illnesses—histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis—in humans is rare, people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of being affected and should avoid exposure to pigeon droppings.
Pigeons, like other birds, can carry a variety of ectoparasites, or parasites carried on the outside of an animal's body, such as ticks.
Balcony railings are everywhere in cities where pigeons are largely present, and they offer the perfect roosting spots for pigeons in need of rest. Pigeons are intelligent birds that are good at finding their way around. Once a pigeon finds a desirable roosting spot, it can be difficult to get them to leave.
What Is Roosting?
Roosting is a bird behavior that involves perching on a surface or ledge to rest or sleep.
7 Ways to Get Rid of Pigeons
It is important to deal with pest control issues with an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. Look at the environmental factors that are drawing the pigeons to your home and work to change them. This makes the environment less desirable for them and creates natural deterrents. Keep in mind that it will likely take multiple control methods used together to effectively get a handle on a pigeon issue.
Removing Food Sources
Whenever possible, start by removing any available food sources for the pigeons. This could mean addressing open garbage or compost receptacles.
If you enjoy feeding the birds but you are having a pigeon issue, it is important that you stop feeding them so the pigeons learn that your home will no longer provide a viable food source. Some individuals really enjoy the act of feeding the birds, but this can alter a bird's ability to scavenge for itself and cause birds to overwinter in areas they would normally migrate away from in winter.
Bird Netting or Screen
Physical exclusion is one method of control used in IPM that involves screening or netting off areas where pests congregate.
This can be an effective method in getting rid of pigeons on a balcony space, but it must be done correctly. If the screen or netting does not properly cover the opening through which pigeons access the space, it will not do an adequate job of keeping them out.
Make sure netting is fastened securely and tightly to the edges of the area you are sealing off. This is typically done with some sort of cable system that the netting is then attached to. If this feels like an overwhelming task, don't be afraid to call an IPM specialist for help.
Bird spikes are a type of deterrent that are installed on surfaces where pigeons and other birds roost. They have large, thin spikes that stick up, preventing birds from landing.
While they can be effective, there are some downsides to bird spikes as well, and depending on where you install them, they can be an eyesore. If you do choose this method for getting rid of pigeons, make sure to install the spikes properly.
Pigeons do not need much roosting space. If there are gaps left between the strips of bird spikes, pigeons can still manage to roost there. Make sure the ends of the spike strips are touching and fastened down tightly.
To use a shock strip, shock tape is attached to surfaces where pigeons land. While this method is considered safe for birds, people, and pets, it will give birds a small shock if they try to land on it. This can teach pigeons and other birds that the spaces around your home are not a welcome roosting site for them.
The main downsides to this method involve the solar-powered battery system and connectivity issues with the tape. Price is also something to consider, as this is definitely a more expensive DIY pigeon control option.
Bird Repellent Gels
There are two main types of bird repellent gel. The first is an optical repellent that gives birds the illusion of fire present, which deters them. These products can work in certain situations, but they are not a surefire method.
The second type of pigeon repellent gel comes in a caulk tube and is applied to surfaces where birds are landing. Pigeons do not like landing on it, but these gels can also end up killing smaller birds, be messy, and require repeated applications.
Another method that can be hit or miss involves scaring the pigeons. The most common scare tactics would be:
- Reflective items hung in spaces where pigeons roost
- Plastic models of predatory birds set out to keep pigeons away
- Ultrasonic sound devices designed to deter birds
While some homeowners have great success with these methods, there are some situations where these methods don't work well, especially when birds grow used to the sounds of ultrasonic sound deterrents.
Traps can be placed to help reduce pigeon populations, but once the traps are filled, they will need to be emptied. Leave trapping to the professionals, unless you are prepared to safely handle the animals you catch according to local wildlife laws.
What Causes Pigeon Issues?
The pigeon is an incredibly common bird, worldwide. Pigeons enjoy being where humans are, and typically do well wherever humans are doing well. Our natural, modern-day way of living provides pigeons with all they need to thrive.
Because pigeons are so widespread, there isn't really a cause for pigeon issues, but more an invitation. Pigeons will always be around, but what natural factors are attracting them to your space? Are there things you are doing (intentionally or unintentionally) that could be inviting them in?
Here is a list of possible causes and environmental factors to consider when trying to get control of a pigeon problem using IPM:
- Harborage Areas: Where are the pigeons seeking shelter, and where are they roosting?
- Feeding Areas: Where are the pigeons finding food? Are you feeding them on your balcony, or do you have bird feeders in your yard? Is there compost or garbage available to them?
- Water Sources: Where are the birds finding water? Are there bird baths or standing water sources attracting them? Do you run an irrigation system that seems to be attracting them at a certain time of day?
How to Prevent Pigeons From Roosting on Your Property
Your first step when dealing with pest control should always be to figure out what is drawing these pests to your home in the first place. Approaching pigeon control with this mindset will give you the framework to come up with long-term, cost-effective, and eco-conscious pest solutions.
If you are dealing with a pigeon issue, it is almost guaranteed that there are some things that can be tweaked around your home to make the environment less desirable for them, but pigeon control can be challenging due to how widespread these pest birds are. Don't be afraid to call a pro if you need help.
Where do pigeons come from?
Pigeons are so widespread, it is hard to pinpoint where they originated. They are good at adapting and are a common pest issue worldwide.
Do pigeons carry disease?
While pigeons and their droppings can carry disease, the primary pigeon-related health concern is the ectoparasites pigeons can carry. There has been evidence of humans contracting mite and pigeon tick infestations from feral pigeon populations.
Will pigeons go away on their own?
Unfortunately, given the nature of pigeons and the desirable living conditions humans naturally provide them, it is not likely that a pigeon issue will go away on its own.
"Pigeons." Boston Public Health Commission.
Haag-Wackernagel, D. "Parasites From Feral Pigeons as a Health Hazard for Humans." Annals of Applied Biology, vol 147, no. 2, 2005, pp. 203-210. Wiley, doi:10.1111/j.1744-7348.2005.00029.x