Rock Pigeons (Columba livia) belong to the bird family Columbidae, most people refer to them as “pigeons”. Contrary to popular belief, they do not spread disease to people, with the possible exception of avian flu, and it isn’t quite fair to call them “rats with wings”.
However, they can be a nuisance around a home; they leave droppings that make a big mess and their cooing is annoying to just above everyone. Pigeons can also carry parasites like lice and ticks. If you’ve found this page I’m sure you don’t need to be sold on the need to get rid of pigeons around your house.
So how do you make pigeons go away from your home and not come back? It depends on whether the birds are making themselves at home all the time, or just roosting there at night or alighting there on their way elsewhere during the day.
Pigeons are creatures of habit, and the stronger the habit, the harder it is to break, so if the pigeons are only roosting at night on or in your house, it is often easier to get rid of them.
Traps and Barriers
If there are only two or three birds nesting in a particular place on your building, then you should try to capture them in a pigeon trap or net.
Pigeons are unique in their ability to remember and return to a location over even thousands of miles, so be aware that transporting your captured pigeon pests elsewhere and releasing them may be counterproductive. You will need to make the choice between having the captured birds exterminated or releasing them somewhere else.
Your other tactic is to prevent the pigeons from roosting by presenting physical barriers. These can include plastic needles, razor wire, and bird netting, installed so as to discourage birds from perching areas.
These are also limited in effectiveness, since birds will try to lay twigs and other objects on them to enable them to perch there, and you need to keep clearing such debris away. As for decoys such as plastic owls, metal pie plate rubber snakes, etc, these can work temporarily until birds figure out they are fake.
For pigeons which are there all the time, unfortunately you will need to resort to chemical bird repellants if you want to get rid of them. Check with local authorities, as these substances are not allowed or require permits to use in some areas. If you are unsure, it is best to leave the matter to a licensed exterminator; they know the local pigeon population and what methods work.
The most common repellant used is a poison called Avitrol. Don’t use rat poison or something like that, since you could end up killing all the birds in the neighborhood, not to mention dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons etc. Use a product specifically meant for bird control.
The deterrent method of these products is that they will kill a certain portion of the birds feeding on it, and the presence of the dead birds will scare away any other pigeons from the area. When plastic needles, fake decoys and bird netting fail to impress your pigeon pests, seeing a fellow pigeon’s corpse makes them get the message loud and clear.
This is often the only thing that works. Farmers have known this for hundreds of years.
Caution: Use care when using bird repellent products. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations exactly. Also, beware when cleaning up pigeon droppings. Prior to removing them, damped the area with water spray from a hose, and wear a mask.
The diseases histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis are known to be associated with pigeon droppings. Histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis are caused by a type of fungus which grows in pigeon droppings, among other places. When the droppings dry and the dust becomes airborne, it is possible for you inhale them and become very ill.
To clean up pigeon droppings, following a few simple precautions will lower your risk of contracting these diseases. While cleaning, wear a respirator or face mask, disposable gloves and clothes that can be washed. Always wash hands and any exposed skin before eating or drinking and when finished with work.
If a high pressure water sprayer is used to remove dried droppings, dust control measures such as containing the area with plastic sheeting, should be taken. Wetting down the work area will prevent inhalation, reduce risk of infection and prevent the spread of dust outside the work area.
Those with a compromised immune system such as people living with HIV/AIDS or cancer patients should not be directly involved in the removal of the droppings.
Other alternatives to using a high pressure water sprayer include soaking the droppings with water and then shoveling the wet material into heavy-duty plastic bags or another type of secure container and discarding in the trash, or using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner designed for waste removal. Do not use a regular household vacuum cleaner.
Avian Diseases– Univ. of Florida Extension
Histomplasmosis: The Bird Droppings Disease– Mother Earth News
Rock Pigeons– University of Minnesota Extension
Pigeon Trapping and nest Removal– State of Connecticut Environmental Protection Dept.
Top Photo by shoobydooby