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How to Stop Pigeons From Roosting on Your Roof Using Humane, Eco-Friendly Methods

Updated on November 6, 2019
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Techygran is a vegan who looks for kind but practical ways to best co-habit with our critter friends for mutual health and safety.

Pigeons are relatively intelligent birds that flock together for meeting survival needs.
Pigeons are relatively intelligent birds that flock together for meeting survival needs.

Pigeon in the City

Pigeons are urban birds, sometimes referred to as "flying rats" and broadly considered the ferals of the bird community. Someone recently said that they were happy that they had a pair of doves living on their deck, and not pigeons. I'm sorry to report that the domestic pigeon was bred from the "wild rock dove" that at one time romantically inhabited mountain ledges instead of the eaves, window sills and attic openings of today's city dwellers' homes. What we often distinguish as a dove is generally just a white, smaller pigeon with the advantage of being mentioned in the Holy Bible as a symbol of the Divine, and used as a metaphor for peace and purity.

The carrier pigeon of historical fame is pretty much just a novelty bird these days, not carrying important messages between rulers or warring generals, but bred for entertainment. Indeed, the carrier pigeon is generally derived from nine different breeds and looks entirely unlike the birds we see on the roofs or in St. Mark's Square.

In Bible times, and up through the ages to World War II when rations were slim in England, pigeon was a fairly common comestible. Surprisingly, squab, or baby pigeon under the age of 4 weeks, is still raised domestically for consumption in restaurants. When I was a young person and came to Vancouver, Canada, to go to College, it was considered standard knowledge that feral pigeon nests were raided by restaurants for the desirable young birds. And, alas,they are still on the menu in some places in Vancouver, although they are sourced from "domestic breeders" now and not from nests along the Granville Street Bridge.

Squab on the Menu

Baby doesn't coo.
Baby doesn't coo.

What attracts Pigeons to your Roof or Window Ledge?

Pigeons are attracted to land on your turf-- roof facade, ledge, attic opening, window sill, back shed, deck, balcony-- because you offer a place to rest and nest and a nearness to a food source.

  • Pigeons have few natural predators, so as long as there is food nearby, it looks like a great place to take up residence. Because they are not particularly fearful of predators, their nests will go up in plain site.
  • They are not picky eaters. If they can't come by seeds from your garden or bird feeder, they will settle for whatever garbage is hanging about.
  • They are part of a big gypsy family, so once they settle in, with a good nearby supply of grub, the word generally spreads and before you know it, a tent city of nests could well spring up occupied by their various friends and relatives.

Baby Squab Hatched on Balcony

Why You Probably Don't Want A Family or Village of Pigeons on Your Property

Diseases, parasites, mess, and noise are the most common reasons for not wanting pigeons in residence.

  • The pigeon poop and dust and debris from nesting and discarded feathers can contain disease pathogens that can be transmitted from the pigeons to humans. These pathogens might be e. coli, St. Louis encephalitis, histoplasmosis, salmonellosis, and psittacosis cryptococcus.
  • Vermin, or parasites carried by the birds, might include ticks, lice, and bird mites, any of which can hang around even when the pigeon itself flies off to another roost.
  • The mess is evident where pigeons roost and includes the feces, of course, and the nest and feather/grooming debris mentioned already. The poop runs the risk of not only fouling the immediate area of their tenancy, but also any nearby property and possessions, such as your car, awnings, children's toys and play equipment, balcony/deck furnishings, and the steps up to your door. The feces are very acidic and can break down your paint job and even the structure. The feathers and nest materials can clog your gutters. Dusty, moldy nesting materials can exacerbate respiratory problems and allergic reactions for people on the other side of the air duct from the pigeon nest.
  • The cooing, particularly during nesting and mating season, can be stressful when people are trying to sleep. While the mess might not bother your neighbours, the cooing quite likely will become an issue. Too, if your neighbour has a pigeon problem, you might want to interact with them to remove the pigeons and make your own home as pigeon-proof as possible.

Repel Pigeons, Be Inhospitable But Kind

If you have observed pigeons eyeing up your premises or making a couple of test landings, here are some things you can put into effect to make your place appear unwelcoming and unsafe:

  • As much as possible, remove abundant, easy-to-come-by food for them. Clean up your gardens as much as possible to eliminate attractive seed pods. You may need to stop being a bird carer and take away your birdfeeders, at least until you have a less attractive nesting area set up. Make sure all garbage bags are properly sealed when putting them in the bins (with lids) and make sure compost bins have lids as well. Remember, if you feed them, their tribe will also come along to get in on the goodies.
  • I'm not a fan of the sharp, poky stuff one lays down to make the terrain less attractive, but it might work well enough for you. I just make the association between that and the way many downtown businesses in cities rather heartlessly apply spikes on their sidewalks to discourage homeless people from sleeping there. Again, the spikey coverings on ledges and railing do seem to dissuade birds from landing and settling, so go ahead and do that if you are not as neurotic as I am.
  • You can tie a string about 1" above in several configurations around the roosting area. The pigeons are reluctant (uncomforable?) to land there.
  • Cats and dogs on the prowl are said to be helpful at deterring these smart birds, although people waving and yelling have little effect. I must confess, however, that my son's family has cats who go right out on the roof, up close and personal with the pigeons, and the birds continued to nest there. You can see that happens with some other cats as well:

Cat among the Pigeons

More Tips for DIY Pigeon Ejection

  • Some folks have success by sprinkling cayenne, chilli pepper, powdered garlic or cinnamon herbs on the ledges or rails where the pigeons gather. Remember that this is not a one-off... you must reapply the herbs after a wind or a rain or a period of time when they are no longer pungeant. Peppermint oil has been suggested, but didn't seem effective in the one video I watched where they tested it out.
  • Mothballs used to be a suggestion of something that pigeons "just didn't like". Well, mothballs are a powerful mix of poisonous chemicals-- naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene. When used, toxic gases are exposed to the air and the toxicity is increased even with very mild warming, as would happen on a summer day. If mothballs are laid down where the area has been bleached, the combination of the two is associated with a number of terrible results, including blindness, major breathing issues, brain damage, birth defects, and even death. Mothballs were developed as an insecticide against moths. Mothballs can also kill larger creatures, such as pigeons, and children. Do not use.
  • The use of bird nets has shown to be a deterrent for pigeons. Just remember to check the nets daily to release any trapped pigeons that might be tangled in a net.
  • A fake predator, for example, an owl, is said to be effective for scaring off pigeons before they establish a roosting location. One author states that especially effective is an owl that is animated, like this owl with flashing eye movement available through Amazon.
  • Ultrasound devices can be used to disorient the pigeon, but generally when they are turned off, the pigeon will return. Household pets are also confused by the ultrasound.
  • Chemical gel repellents prevent bird from perching, but can also run the risk of sticking their wings up so that they can not fly away. Small birds can get enmeshed in the gel and die a slow, painful death attempting to disengage from the gel. Honey has a deterrent effect, but after the birds leave, the honey can attract wasps and other insects.
  • An electric track can be laid down in the areas where the pigeons frequent and through solar-energization, provide a harmless mild electric shock when to the pigeon when it returns to the roosting place. The product is said to be a "psychological barrier" since the pigeon will associate the location with the shock, and will be reluctant to return there whether the track continues to be there or has been moved to the next location the pigeon might try to roost on.
  • Professional pest controllers suggest that people try several methods above and if nothing works, then call a professional. It is important to note that the legal system varies from place to place but that many jurisdictions in North America and elsewhere make it against the law to remove the pigeon or its nest while the nest is being occupied.

Pigeons on the Pill

Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer with BC SPCA shows the feeding unit placed at the VCC-Clark SkyTrain station.
Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer with BC SPCA shows the feeding unit placed at the VCC-Clark SkyTrain station. | Source

Birth Control for Poopy Pigeons

The SkyTrain transit system in Vancouver, Canada has been dealing with pigeon problems that not only include the disgusting dung detail, but also involve the pesky pigeons causing irritating delays to the service when they activate automatic brakes by triggering track intrusion alarms.

They have not been able to discourage birds from roosting along the tracks with nets, electric shocks, or spikes along their perches. A falconer was being brought in (early 2019) to try to scare the birds away.

Part of the problem has also been that SkyTrain customers feed the pigeons, drawing in more and more of a crowd and encouraging dependence on customer handouts vs. their own seed-based natural diet foods.

Besides the fearsome falcon, the pugnacious pigeons will be part of a study using an automated feeding system using liquid corn laced with OvoControl, a birth control formula. The Vancouver SPCA and TransLink have partnered together in this study. The birth control formula breaks down in the pigeon's blood, but will cause the pigeons to lay unfertilized eggs. There will be no harmful effects on predators that eat the birds, nor upon mammals. The effects for the pigeons will be reversable as well.

References:

Fantastic Pest Control, UK

Winston-Salem Wildlife re using moth balls

Bird Removal . com re not using moth balls

Pest Strategies . com

CBC News Canada

Wikipedia on the differences between different pigeons

Comments

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    • techygran profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia 

      3 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Hi Denise

      You are welcome to this information. Thanks for the feedback on what sounds like inethical poisoning of the pigeons, I agree, and no, the idea of a falcon doesn't sound like my kind of "natural" management method either. I agree with you around the fake owls sounding like the least invasive method. Blessings to you also.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      3 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      I would hate the use of falcons even though this is natural. I have seen the fake owls being very effective around gas stations in the area that have flat overhangs. That seems the least invasive to me. I'd hate the use of poisons. However, I wonder if that hasn't been the case since some nesting falcons near me seem to drop dead this summer. They had to have gotten some poisoned food somewhere. Thanks for the info.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • techygran profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia 

      4 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Bill.

      Thanks for the feedback. I wonder why your home area is devoid of pigeons-- that is interesting to me. I might do some more research. Thanks for your kind words and I definitely had you pegged as a do-no-harm brother.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Oddly I hardly ever see pigeons in Olympia. Certainly not in our neighborhood, even though we are only two miles from downtown...but even downtown I rarely see them. I loved this article...I'm all for humane treatment of animals and birds, and eco-friendly will always get my attention.

    • techygran profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia 

      5 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Nell-- thanks for your visit and for sharing! I imagine the pub roof would be a not-bad place to make a home, if the odd person feeds them or they can find their way into the bins.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 weeks ago from England

      They are okay where I live, but do try to make a mess of my balcony. I actually saw baby ones a while ago. They were nesting in the pub roof! lol! Interesting facts, thanks

    • techygran profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia 

      5 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Ann,

      I agree that most of the pigeons around here (suburbs) are also not such a bother, but I also see that some of our neighbours seem to have attracted them to their roofs. Our son and family live in an older neighbourhood in a large city and they have had enough of pigeons housing around one of their dormer windows just above their front door. Big mess. I did this research for his possible benefit.

      Thank you for sharing and your affirmative words!

    • techygran profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia 

      5 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Linda, thank you for your kind words, and yes, please report back on whether you notice changes in the pigeon population around your particular SkyTrain location!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      5 weeks ago from SW England

      We have a few pigeons around here but not so many as to be bothered with them. Most in the garden are wood pigeons as opposed to the town variety which we do get occasionally (in town, surprisingly!). A small copse of willow trees stands next to our house so most nest in there and drop down for the occasional insect or for a shower in our bird bath!

      Informative and useful article.

      Ann

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I loved the video of the cat and the pigeon playing! You've shared a lot of useful information in this article. The information about the SkyTrain pigeons was interesting. I've noticed the birds at the nearest station to my home. I'll keep my eye out for them in my future visits and see if there are any changes to the population.

    • techygran profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia 

      5 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thank you for dropping by Flourish! I understand that fatty squab tastes much like chicken, for what it is worth. I personally cannot imagine eating either, but, as my mother used to say, "one man's meat is another man's poison." Thank you so much for your comments!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      6 weeks ago from USA

      Your disdainful description had me chuckling. I will never forget how my cat Oscar ran up to one under a bird feeder, but it on the back and just carried him off and ate him. I couldn’t get over them being on the Chinese menu!

    • techygran profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia 

      6 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thanks Jodah for your comments and the heads up.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      A very useful article, Cynthia, for those being harassed by the pigeon brigade. We have a few top-knot pigeons and others hanging around our chicken pen at times, but none nesting here it seems so they haven't really become a problem. I will keep monitoring the situation, however.

      (p.s. I have published my latest Poems From the Porch article and it contains one poem on Bush Fire and Drought that you requested.)

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