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Please help me. I need to make a decision about whether or not to kill pigeons?
Let me explain the title, please. I have nothing against pigeons, nothing at all; in fact during WWll in the mining village where I grew up in Scotland, ‘Dookeepers’ were practically revered. [‘Doo’ is the Scottish colloquial name for a ‘Dove’, and as pigeons are more or less doves, pigeons were also called ‘the doos’, pigeon keepers were called ‘doo-keepers’, and ‘doo-cotes’ – or ‘Lofts’ as we called them, were dovecots.]
We kids all knew that doos helped the war effort by bringing messages back from behind enemy lines, therefore the doo-keepers were helping the war effort by breeding and training pigeons. We all knew as well, that pigeons had been used by mankind as message carriers for centuries and centuries and could fly for over 600 miles – that was all the way to London, England – all the way to wherever London was. Gasp!
Because of my childhood experiences, I know that in Canada, where I now live, my local city is making a huge mistake in banning pigeon keeping. The pigeons making a mess of the city are feral pigeons. Doo-keepers cosset their stock. They are not allowed out. They have to be in tip-top condition for the next race. Under no circumstances would a doo-keeper allow his birds out to rest on a stranger’s roof; not only would it be the end of his reputation, it would be the end of the doo’s usefulness. When the vote comes up this month, I’ll be one of the first to vote against banning pigeon-keeping.
As I was saying, it wasn’t until I came to Canada that I discovered Reuter’s News Agency had been started with homing pigeons. I found this fact alone very impressive; imagine Paul Reuter having the vision to start the most honourable news agency the world has ever known - with pigeons! Then I find out that Genghis Khan used them, and not only that, they are still used to take messages in Switzerland. Astonishing!
Some warfare pigeons have had medals minted in their favour. In 1943 Maria Dickin from the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals in Britain, instituted the Dickin Medal to honour animals for bravery during the war – and the first recipients were 3 pigeons who helped the Royal Air Force find their ditched pilots.
Some of the over 30 pigeons who won the Dickin medal, were even mounted, which was probably not the future they envisaged. Some pigeons had statues constructed in their honour – ironic, don’t you think, and I could make a few jokes about statues and pigeons, but enough of that. As I said, I have nothing against pigeons. The feral pigeons can live and crap in John Doe’s loft as long as they like. They can even live in our church steeple; removing the 9 tons of droppings gave the elders a real job to do, and the church did make money from the sale of pigeon manure.
So when our neighbour’s daughter bought 2 pigeons as pets. At first the neighbour’s pigeons cooed at us and we cooed at them. When the daughter left home and started her own family – she forgot to take the pair of pigeons. I had assumed they were Homing Pigeons, but possibly they were Stay At Home Pigeons. Soon the 2 abandoned pigeons became 6, before they joined up with a flock from the neighbouring town and became 26. 2 doos was cute, 6 were bearable, but 26 meant war.
It’s difficult for me to put the pigeon conflict into perspective. We are an animal loving family. My wife ran a boarding kennel until she retired. We encourage every imaginable bird from hummingbirds to swallows, from blue jays to doves; from woodpeckers to chickadees, even crows. We have our own personal rabbits in the garden somewhere and we suspect the fox tracks we see in the snow are caused by a fox hibernating under the back deck.
So why do we – for ‘we’ read ‘my wife’ – detest pigeons? They are thieves, avaricious thieves; when we put out a snack for the squirrels, the pigeons swoop down before the poor animal can get its nuts off. No matter what particular genus of bird has his or her breakfast set out for them, the pigeons get there first. They are flying marauders.
We made a seperate little shelf for the squirrels, but the pigeons get there first. We bought bird feeders that they couldn't land on, to save the bird seed for the smaller, more fragile birds - what happens? They sent two of the flock on a 'frantic hover' course. They were instructed on the various ways of hovering frantically, long enough to knock the seeds out of the feeder onto the ground, where the rest of the flock waits.
Me? I have nothing against them, apart from the mess they make of the roof – and believe me, the poop and urine from 26 doos makes a disgusting mess. I don’t even mind them flying, after all they don’t make a sound when they fly, which is a darn sight more than you can say for the millions of Canada Geese that go honking over every winter.
The thievery has got to the stage where the squirrels come tapping on the window. They stand there, with a puzzled look on their cute little faces, with their arms spread out, paws up. I can’t speak squirrel, but from watching their lips, I could swear they say, ‘what the f***’?
We’ve tried everything short of a shotgun, but the stubborn birds won’t go.
Exploding Pigeons or Extinct Pigeons?
But…...we have a carpenter in-house just now, doing some renovations. His comment when he saw the pigeons, was,
“Those things are a menace. Did you know that some cities have laws against them?”
I nodded. “Yes, I know. Believe me,” I said, “We’ve tried to get rid of them.”
“Try Rolaids or Tums. My Grandparents were farmers, and they told me that before they had silos, the pigeons used to poop all over the harvest grain, making it un-saleable. They used to throw out antacid tablets to stop them. According to them, pigeons have a different type of gullet; the same type of gullet as a hen. They said that pigeons can’t get rid of wind either up the way or down the way. They explode.”
“Yeah, right!” I said, disappointed. I’d been hoping for a realistic method of stopping them, but feeding them antacid tablets seemed like a bizarre cure for pooping pigeons. Anyway, antacid pills don’t cause wind, they cure wind. The pigeon would have to be suffering from indigestion in the first place, and if it was suffering, Tums would help, not hinder.
But later that evening, after the carpenter had left, I pondered. I pondered my way to the computer and logged onto the net. Perhaps it wasn’t claptrap. My browsing proved nothing. 50% were sure it had to work and 50% thought it was a ridiculous myth.
During my search I found some other oddities that had me laughing my head off. Seemingly another way of dispatching pigeons to the great hereafter was to feed them rice. One scathing comment to that blog, suggested that if that were the case, Asia would be waist deep in pigeon entrails. Not necessarily, I thought, if pigeons knew that rice killed them, they would steer clear of the Far East and paddy fields.
The author of another entry swore blind that any European House Sparrows that had migrated to North America would die violently if people stopped feeding them human food. Did he think that house sparrows got their name because they lived in our U.K. homes? Did he think they had corn flakes for breakfast? Although sparrows tend to live near human habitation, they eat almost anything.
But I digress – browsing the net does that to me.
I don’t know whether to believe the antacid/pigeon story or not, but I do know how to verify the facts. I’ve broken up the antacid tablets, and after the present snowstorm ends, all I need to do is sprinkle Tums on to the deck. This is why I need your advice. Do you think I should construct an I.E.D. (Inflight Exploding Device)?
Should I scatter the antacid pills? or Shouldn’t I?
What? Oh Yes, the Extinct pigeon! Didn’t you know that the Dodo was a pigeon? That’ll be the Dodo in ….. ‘as dead as a ….’
Should I blow up the pigeons?
And then there were 25
Despite the 100% vote to explode the marauding pigeons I still haven’t plucked up the courage to blow them up – yet - and after this week I may never do it. Let me explain!
The pigeons are back in full force, all 26 of them. They land on our house and the neighbours’ houses. They land on the wires between the lamp standards. On the wires they make quite a sight: 13 on the top wire and 13 on the bottom wire.
We’ve resorted to shooing them away before they eat all of the squirrels’ feed. We wave a white envelope at them and they all take off – and do an aerial circle and land back before we leave the window. I’ve tried a water pistol, but not only does it not scare them away, it gives them a good laugh as the jet of water freezes halfway to them. We’ve tried throwing pebbles to scare them, but they thing it is a new game. I’ve tried a catapult but my aim isn’t too good and my neighbours object.
I know they’re starving, but I could stop them coming to our house – I wouldn’t put any bird seed out, or squirrel nuts out. Isn’t it simple? Apparently however, that makes me a cruel S.O.B!!
Anyway, this week our problems were solved by Mother Nature herself – I’ll give her a kiss when she’s sleeping. At the moment she is too busy having lunch – on a prime pigeon. The 26 pigeons lined in a row on the wires were too good to miss.
The hawk swooped down and chose from the menu.
The centre pigeon landed in the ditch for the last time - with the hawk’s talons around it.
When I think about, it was probably breakfast for the hawk, as it was early morning. It stayed there for over an hour, ripping that bird to shreds, before it flew away. The hawk returned in the early afternoon for lunch, and you can see from the photos what a mess it made. Now, think of the mess there would be if that pigeon had exploded in flight, due to an overdose of Tums or Rolaids.
I’ll leave our over population of pigeons to nature, but come think of it, I haven’t seen many doves lately. I wonder why?