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Often referred to as “rats with wings”, feral pigeons, also called city doves, city pigeons, street pigeons or town pigeons, have become a huge problem in towns and cities across the whole country. The feral pigeon has successfully adapted to living in the closest proximity to humans, where the birds have no natural enemies, can find enough food or even are provided with abundant food supply by well meaning people. Feral pigeons are considered a pest because they spread harmful diseases, contaminated food and above all damage buildings.

Appearance: The feral pigeon is approx. 30 – 35 cm (12 – 14 in) long and weighs 350 g (12 oz) on average. The colour of its feathers can vary considerably from blue-grey and white-grey to dark grey or even red-grey. Feral pigeons are stout-bodied birds with slender bills, short tails and necks. Their irises are red.

Infestation: There are approx. 18 million feral pigeons in the UK. They have adapted to life and are abundant in towns. They use urban infrastructure to make nests, to breed and scavenge for food. It is a thoroughly natural behaviour because town buildings are a substitute for sea cliffs where the predecessors of city pigeons used to live thousands years ago. Anyway, there is no doubt that pigeons have infested cities, causing a lot of damage. Because of continuous food supply in the urban environment feral pigeons can lay eggs up to six times a year, whereas their wild cousins, such as rock doves do it once a year. As a result a small population of town pigeons may grow rapidly, developing a large infestation.

Habitat: Pigeons live and feed in flocks both in towns and in the countryside. Nests have a fundamental importance for the birds which tend to choose damaged and derelict properties as nesting areas. Normally, dozens of feral pigeons share the same nesting place. Loose tiles, leaky roofs, wall opening, broken windows, damaged lids or holey casings give birds an easy access to attics, lofts, roof spaces, empty water tanks, cisterns, halls, warehouses and other rooms which pigeons readily adapt for their purposes. For nesting, day-time perching and night-time roosting, town pigeons make also use of gutters, window sills, flower boxes, eaves, chimney pots, air conditioner boxes, balconies or other ledges and hollows of buildings. Pigeons which feed on grass seeds and berries in nature, can find plentiful other easily accessible food sources in cities such us food waste dumped by tourists, stale bread disposed by restaurants or birdseeds given by the public.

Detection: Even a cursory inspection of places where pigeons usually stay can reveal the birds and typical signs of their presence. The latter are ubiquitous droppings as well as nests, nesting debris, feathers and dead animals. Usually, day-time perches on buildings and nesting areas used to roost or breed are separate from each other. It is also easy to detect pigeons going for discarded food since they congregate in large thick flocks whenever an available food source is spotted.

Health hazards and damage to property: Feral pigeons have been known to pass on dangerous diseases such as chiamdiosis, a virus similar to influenza, ornithosis also called parrot fever, similar to pneumonia and salmonellosis. However, the actual risk to be infected is slight. The real nuisance is the serious damage to private and public premises caused by pigeons when they nest or roost there. Buildings, squares and monuments fouled with bird droppings and nests are not only visually disgusting but also seriously damaged. Acidic droppings destroy the surface of stonework as well as make stairways, balconies and pavements slippery and thus unsafe. Furthermore, nest materials such as grass, twigs, feathers and plastic scraps can block gutters and drainpipes causing flooding as well as other damp problems. In addition, pigeon nests and droppings attract many household insect pests, such as moths, larder beetles, bugs and mites which can invade nearby homes and attack people. In warehouses, granaries and processing plants, where pigeons often find shelter, they contaminate food stored with their droppings and nest debris.

Hygiene and precautionary measures: Good housekeeping and suitable protective measures are essential to prevent pigeon infestation. It is important to have buildings properly and regularly maintained. All gaps, holes, openings and other defects used by pigeons to get inside a building should be sealed up. All ready food sources for pigeons such as dustbins with household waste or pet food containers should be protected with lids, boxes or covers. Basically, the size of a pigeon population depends on food available, so it is crucial to immediately remove any spills, leftovers or food residues stored outdoors. It is extremely irresponsible to leave food out for birds or other wildlife. In doing so you are in fact inviting pigeons to infest your property. If there is any food source available to pigeons in your property all measures taken against the infestation can be in vain.

Professional pest control service: Although property owners often implement many radical measures, such as poison, trapping or scaring devices to get rid of pigeons, the birds seem to be unaffected by it or they come back after a short period of absence. That is why a professional pest control service should be called out if you have to tackle a heavy infestation. Using for example chicken wire, pest controllers block off gaps and ledges where pigeons normally perch and roost. Specialists destroy birds’ nests and if necessary, they professionally place traps, repellents and baits. These measures are taken in such a way that it does not affect the physical safety of people living or visiting the premises.

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