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   Inside Out - East: Monday 21st October, 2002

PIGEON PESTS

Pigeon

Often referred to as ‘rats with wings’, feral pigeons have become just as much of a problem in towns and cities as their furry, four-legged counterparts.

Descendants of rock doves, originally cliff dwelling birds, the feral pigeon has adapted well to living alongside humans and is an integral feature of town centres across the country.

Disease

Pigeons have been known to carry diseases such as Chiamdiosis, a virus similar to influenza, and Psittacosis, similar to pneumonia.

Tablets pouring from a bottle
Pigeons are known carriers of disease

It is still unknown how big a health risk pigeons pose to humans, with many experts believing the chance of infection to be slight.

An undisputed and particularly visual pigeon problem however is mess. Combined pigeon deposits can weigh up to several tons and costs £15 million a year to clear up.

Droppings not only cause buildings to look unsightly, but can cause long term damage according to Iain Turner, sales marketing manager of a pest control firm.

"Droppings deface buildings and can in the long term destroy them."
Iain Turner

Fresh droppings, whilst unpleasant, pose no risk to health. It is dried droppings that can potentially spread infection.

Spores from the droppings can be inhaled as dust and carried on the wind. It can cause a flu like illness in healthy people, but poses more serious problems to those with low immunity.

Residential and rural pest

Pigeons not only pose problems in residential areas, farmers also suffer at the hands, or rather beaks of this feathered pest.

Tractor ploughing a field
Pigeons pose a problem in residential and rural areas alike

In the course of a single year, a feral pigeon can eat its way through 64 pounds of food. With an estimated 18 million feral pigeons in Britain, this can pose a serious problem.

One farmer’s solution? A man called Geoff Garrod.

Geoff is employed by a local farmer to shoot pigeons, which are then sold for around 10 pence each. The majority end up as the dish of the day in European restaurants.

Pest control

As unpopular as the humble pigeon may be, shooting the pest is often frowned upon by the general public. But what are the alternatives?

Contraceptives for pigeons and pigeon predators (real and fake) have been tried with limited success. However now Lowestoft Council are driving birds away from residential areas to specially built feeding and breeding areas in less sensitive places.

So has the pigeon problem been solved? Lowestoft certainly have had successful results with the designated breeding areas.

If the scheme catches on, inner city pigeons across the country may be packing their bags for birdie suburbia. What will those tourists in Trafalgar Square do now?

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
News - In defence of pigeons
News - Pigeons - Not a problem to poo-poo

On the rest of the web
Feral Pigeons
Feral Pigeons - Redbridge
Problem pigeons

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