Birdwatchers probably wouldn’t be ecstatic to spot one of these in their binoculars. Pigeons, probably the most noted bird pest, are often seen meandering around parks, urban buildings, bridges, and feed mills—basically wherever they can find food, relax and nest. Pigeons usually live at least 15 years. Pigeons living in urban areas, however, don’t survive as long. They typically live three to four years.
Most pigeons have bodies that are gray with a backside that is white. They are also distinguished by a couple of black bards on their second set of wing feathers. The birds sport a wide black band on the tail. For a splash of color, their feet are red. Their bodies can range in color from blackish to gray to tan to white. Pigeons, on average, weigh 13 ounces, and they measure, in length, an average of 11 inches.
Pigeons aren’t picky dwellers. They’ll often take house in attics, steeples, caves, lofts and within decorative architectural areas of buildings where they can eat, rest and nest. Pigeons gather grass, sticks and twigs and bunch them together to create their simple homes.
Pigeon Life Cycle
There is no set season for pigeon breeding; they can breed year round. While nests may be seen at any given time, the most popular months for births are within the months of March and July. It is a usual occurrence for two white eggs to appear on two successive days. The development stage happens in around 18 days. Fledging will occur about a month and a half after that. A new hatch of eggs can be laid when the young ones are almost three weeks old. One pigeon can have as many as nine sets of offspring in one year.
Pigeons and Humans
Pigeons are considered pests for multiple reasons. When they leave their “mark” in public spaces, this is not only unsightly, but it also causes deterioration, particularly on buildings. In large quantities, their manure can destroy vegetation. If this manure builds up over the space of many years, it may carry a fungus disease, histoplasmosis, which has an effect on the respiratory tract of humans. This disease can be fatal in worst cases.
Not only do pigeons leave unwanted droppings, but pigeons have also been connected to the transmission of many diseases like encephalitis and salmonella food poisoning, among others. Of course the diseases passed from pigeons to humans are hard to determine. There are few if any reports of diseases related directly to pigeons, either urban or rural.
Pigeons carry external parasites—mites, ticks, bugs and fleas. Many of these will bite humans. Around airports, pigeon flocks may pose a danger in that they may come into a collision with airplanes that are in flight. There have actually been some occasions where jet aircraft collided with bird flocks, causing human deaths.
The number one way to control pigeons is to not feed them. Pigeons will capitalize on any and all opportunities for water, food and shelter. Garbage can lids should be left closed, and food should be thrown away. Some people mistakenly think it is a nice gesture to feed the birds. However, this creates in pigeons a reliance on food from people. The birds then become both an irritation and a hazard to health. Eliminating food will also help other control methods to be more successful. Controlling pigeons can most likely occur when people work together to keep the population of pigeons at a reasonable number. In short, don’t feed the birds!
The number of pigeons can also be lowered by preventing them from entering roosts and nesting places that are indoors. These areas should be blocked off with bricks, metal, glass, wood or a ¾-inch wire mesh that is rust-proofed. If wire mesh isn’t available, nylon netting or plastic may be used although these materials would likely have to be replaced more often.
Pigeons can also be prevented from roosting on ledges by altering the angle on the ledge to at least 45 degrees. This can be achieved by forming and securing wood, stone or sheet metal to the ledge. Decorative parts of buildings can be secured with nylon netting to prevent pigeons from loafing, roosting and nesting. The netting may be effective, although it may not necessarily have aesthetic appeal.
In hangars, barns and sheds, roosting is completely preventable by using ¼-inch wire mesh screening or netting to screen the under part of the rafters. In building truss-rafters, it is critical for purlins to be placed between rafters to help support the wire screening. If plastic netting is substituted, supports would no longer be necessary.
Other forms of pigeon control are also available: chemical repellants, trapping and shooting. Local laws, of course, should be consulted before shooting pigeons. Toxicants are also a possibility for eliminating pigeons; however, they should only be administered by professional pesticide applicators since the toxicants may be harmful to surrounding birds, animals and people if not used properly.
Detailed Development and Reproductive Life Cycle of Pigeons
Pigeons are loyal to their mates. They only have one mate at a given time. The male has the role of taking care of the female and protecting the nest. Just eight to 12 days after mating occurs, the female will lay one or two eggs. The male and the female take turns keeping the eggs warm. The male sits on the eggs during the daytime, and the female takes her turn at night. It takes the eggs about 18 days to hatch. The newborns are given “pigeon milk,” a secreted substance. The young ones leave home when they are four to six weeks old. But before this occurs, more eggs are typically laid. Groups of pigeon usually have of an equal number of males and females.
Pigeon Nest Construction
Pigeon nests are usually built on building ledges that are covered. These often appear much like cliffs, which is the natural habitat for a Rock Pigeon. Pigeons may also choose to nest and roost under bridges along freeways and in urban areas, always finding some kind of structure on which to make a home. The male and female build their home together—the male collects the twigs with which to build the nest, and the female assembles it. Sometimes, however, eggs are laid on the ground without hardly any nesting material. Nests tend to be hidden well and are oftentimes used more than once.
Pigeons mainly eat grain that has been spilled or incorrectly stored. They tend to eat a lot of grain around farms and other places that is intended to be consumed by people or animals. They also feed on garbage, or any other food, provided by people—whether on purpose or not. In some urban areas, pigeon feeding is actually deemed recreational.