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Toll-Free: 888.693.1436

Servicing all of Southern Ontario

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Pigeons (Rock Doves)

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Columba livia

 

Quick facts

 

  • Unless separated, pigeons mate for life.
  • Newborn pigeons are fed by both parents, the males having the ability to produce a type of ‘milk’ similar to that of females.
  • An adult pigeon has nearly 10,000 feathers, and they are renewed every year.
  • City pigeons roost on window ledges of buildings because they mimic the cliff ledges used by their ancestors.
  • Although in captivity they can live up to 15 years, in urban populations, pigeons rarely make it past their 3rd or 4th year of life due to predation, disease, and lack of resources.
  • There are almost no differences in appearance between the male and female, although males have more iridescence on their back.

 

Appearance

 

Adult pigeons are 32-47 cm long from tip of the bill to tip of the tail and have a wingspan of 64-70 cm. The head, neck, and chest are a dark bluish-gray with a green and purple iridescence on the neck and along the wing feathers. The chest is a light gray, the rump is white, while the bill is a dark grayish-pink. Most pigeons have two dark bars across the wings and one bluish-gray across the tail. Plumage variation is vast; other colors include all white, all black, spotted, or a combination. They have reddish eyes and reddish-pink feet. The differences in appearance between the genders are minimal: the male has a more intense iridescence that stretches along the neck, while the female’s iridescence is more faded and only present on the rear and sides.

 

Diet, Behavior, and Habits

 

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Although native to Eurasia, the common pigeon of city parks, barns, and cliffs has been domesticated for more than 5,000 years and is now found all around the world. The species was originally a cliff nester, and the behavior observed at urban flocks of dwelling on the ledges of tall buildings resembles that of wild rock pigeons. Pigeons have exceptional orientation skills, using the position of the sun, earth’s magnetic fields, and sounds and smells to find their way around.

 

Pigeons are monogamous and may form pairs at any time of the year. The nest building is usually the male’s responsibility. Typical nesting sites are chosen along natural or artificial coastal cliff faces (such as the ledges and roofs of city buildings) and consist of a straw-and-stick platform.

 

The female lays the eggs shortly after the nest is completed, and both parents will participate in the incubation process. Clutches comprise 1-3 eggs and hatch within 19 days since they are laid; the female can produce up to six broods per year. The young will leave the nest after approximately one month. The nest is often reused.

 

Pigeons feed individually or in flocks in the morning and mid-afternoon on seeds, insects, leafy materials, and food discarded by humans. The diet of pigeons in rural regions consists primarily of corn, oats, cherry, elm, and barley, while feral pigeons in cities eat anything from nuts, popcorn, peanuts, to bread and cake. Females need to maintain a protein- and calcium-rich diet in order to provide their young with sufficient nutrients. They drink water while keeping their bill down and don’t have to tilt their head back to swallow. The young are fed crop milk produced by both the female and the male for a period of approximately 30 days.

 

Pigeons are most active during the day. On the ground, they walk or run, and in flight they keep a steady path. Both sexes are aggressive to intruders while nesting.

 

Damage

 

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Pigeon control is essential in managing the damage and disease problems these birds create, including:

 

  • Damaging crops, killing vegetation, and producing a foul odor
  • Displacing native birds in developed regions
  • Causing extensive damage to historic buildings (particularly those built from limestone and calciferous sandstone) due to the acids released from their excrements
  • Causing flooding and roof damage due to the accumulation of droppings in drains and gutters
  • Causing air conditioning failure by nesting inside outside units
  • Exposing people to slip and fall accidents due to the accumulation of feces and debris on the pavement
  • Affecting the longevity of roofing materials and damaging the appearance of buildings, leading to extensive financial damage (the corrosive effects of their excrements may continue for long periods after the fouling has been eliminated)
  • Posing significant health risks to humans by transmitting pathogens that host several diseases, including meningitis, salmonella, histoplasmosis, encephalitis, toxoplasmosis, and avian influenza

 

Management and Control

 

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To reduce pigeon populations and the damage they cause to buildings and human habitats, homeowners can either resort to exclusion, frightening, or chemical control.

 

Bird repelling techniques fall into two categories:

 

  • Anti-perching devices. Anti-perching wires, spikes, and gels are most commonly used to protect building surfaces by preventing birds to land, roost, and foul. Because they are discreet, able to conform to a building’s contour, and also rustproof, sprung wires are suitable for protecting most historic buildings. When the birds try to land on them, the springs cause the wire to bounce, thus disorienting and dissuading them from landing on that particular site. Spikes are another effective method of discouraging pigeons from landing in certain areas, most often used on ledges and edges of sills. Anti-perching gels consist of a polybutylenegel and a skinning solution that stick to a bird’s feet once it lands on it, and the unpleasant feeling of having it stuck to their body discourages them from landing on surfaces that look like they have gel applied on them.

 

  • Anti-entry devices. Birds can be kept out of courtyard areas by means of plastic or nylon netting, which also works as a screening device for balconies, windows, and air conditioning units.

 

Frightening. Noise-making devices may have a temporary effect on pigeons, although the disturbance they sometimes cause to humans is not justified by the results. Ultrasound devices, balloons, revolving lights, owl models, rubber snakes, and waving colored flags, as well as candles or pyrotechnic methods, may be effective in preventing pigeons from roosting, but not in the long run. Chemical frightening agents formulated with 4-aminopyridine can be used by specialized pest control professionals to reduce and eliminate pigeon populations.

 

Repellents.Non-toxic chemical repellents are available in the form of aerosols, pastes, and liquids, and are not lethal to pigeons. Instead, they produce a sticky surface that forces the birds to find other roosting and nesting sites. It’s important to note that using chemical repellents may decrease the visual appeal of a building, pose problems to window cleaners, and sometimes not even deter pigeons at all (nesting materials can be placed on top of the repellent). This method is most suitable for small and mid-sized infestation problems.

 

Toxic baiting.Pigeon control using toxicants is the most effective way to manage these pests and can only be performed by professionals. It involves training the birds to feed on a specific bait placed in specific sites before introducing the toxicant.

 

Prevention

 

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Some of these measures may help dissuade problems caused by pigeons dwelling or roosting in and around public areas:

 

  • Eliminate food and water sources, as well as roosting and nesting sites
  • Discourage people from feeding birds in public areas
  • Clean spilled grains and other seeds around feed mills
  • Eliminate bodies of standing water
  • Modify buildings and architectural designs to become less attractive to pigeons
  • Manage grasslands to reduce the production of seeds while maintaining the grass tall
  • Seal entrances to potential nesting sites in buildings and other areas of the property
  • Implement effective waste control and management procedures and make sure all inhabitants follow them accordingly

 

 

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