When your home and yard are invaded by dozens or even hundreds of pigeons, it’s not hard to understand how they earned the epithet ‘flying rats’.
Pigeons bully other birds. They release acidic, corrosive waste. They carry diseases. And if you let them, scores of pigeons will roost on every available space on and around your home.
It’s hard to tell which is worse, pigeons or their droppings. The average pigeon, according to pigeon expert Andrew Blechman, produces 25 pounds (11.5 kg) of droppings every year.
Pigeon poop will eat through stone and concrete. It can corrode galvanized steel architectural members, statues, and automobile paint. Pigeons are highly social birds, and pigeon droppings help them find other pigeons with whom to roost.
Some of the diseases that can be incubated in pigeon excrement have serious implications for public and personal health.
- Polish public health officials tracked an epidemic of Salmonella to pigeons. Pigeon excrement is also frequently contaminated by E. coli, an important cause of “stomach flu” in humans
- A pigeon paramyxovirus was tracked to a fatal case of pneumonia in a person who lived near a pigeon colony.
- Psittacosis, a disease commonly termed parrot fever despite the fact it is mostly transmitted by pigeons, can cause high fevers, diarrhea, joint pain, nosebleeds, headaches, and sometimes inflammation of the spleen, brain, and heart. The bacteria that cause this disease can be spread by dung, feathers, and dried nasal secretions of the pigeons that harbor it.
We aren’t saying that everything about pigeons is bad. But who wants to live in a house that is surrounded by pigeon droppings? And who wants to breathe in the dust from those droppings 24 hours a day.
When you have decided it’s time for the pigeons that are plaguing you to go, here are some methods that work for getting rid of pigeons. We’ll start with the best.
Deprive pigeons of their food sources
Pigeons like to stay in the same location for life. As long as they can find food, they’ll stay around your home, and their hatchlings and their hatchling’s hatchlings will, too.
Pigeons have learned to forage for food in garbage dumpsters. Keep the lid closed on garbage dumpsters and garbage cans so they won’t use your trash as their food source.
Pigeons also feast on seeds, fruit, berries, insects, and worms. Deadhead your flowers when they die, so pigeons won’t harvest their seeds. If you have fruit trees and berry bushes, keep any fallen fruit off the ground so it won’t become a treat for the pigeons.
It never hurts to spend time observing what pigeons eat. If you can find out where they are regularly feeding, you can remove the food source so they will go away.
It’s also important never, ever to allow anyone to feed the pigeons on your property.
Remove old nests and nesting materials
Pigeons sometimes return to old nests to raise a new set of chicks. They don’t mind the fact that old nests are soaked with fecal matter and parasites. They just like to spend more time eating than building nests.
It’s important to remove old nests to keep new generations of pigeons from calling your property home. We’ll have more information on the details of how to accomplish that a little later in this article.
It’s also important to keep your property picked up. Don’t leave small branches, twigs, and long, dry grass lying around for pigeons to build new nests.
Even if you can’t control pigeons, make sure you control pigeon poop
The problem with pigeon poop isn’t just that it’s smelly, corrosive, and germ-ridden.
Pigeon droppings attract other pigeons. They also make it harder to install some of the deterrent devices we’ll mention later in this article.
It is easier to remove pigeon droppings while they are still wet. Use a hose with high-pressure warm water. Wear a mask and gloves to make sure you don’t inhale feathers or dried fecal dust.
If pigeon droppings have dried, remove them with soap and warm water. Use a tarp to collect them if you are cleaning up a large amount.
Seal all entrances to your attic, your garage, and the crawl space under your house
Pigeons like to nest in warm, quiet, protected corners. Indoor nesting space is always preferable to outdoor nesting space.
Use silicone caulk to seal potential entry points around utility cables and cracks in your walls.
Replace any exterior lumber with holes in it. Hang hardware cloth or bird netting over larger areas until you have a chance to fill in small holes.
Install anti-roosting spikes
If you have had an occasion to look out a window onto the ledges of most skyscrapers, chances are that you have noticed rows of tiny spikes.
You won’t see the spikes from a distance because they are made of clear polycarbonate, the same material used to make shatter-proof eyeglasses.
Clear plastic anti-roosting spikes won’t interfere with the aesthetics of a skyscraper and they won’t interfere with the aesthetics of your home, either.
These usually unnoticed spikes deprive pigeons of a place to perch so they have to fly away to another location. If you prefer the look of spikes that glisten in the sun, you can buy anti-roosting spikes made from a product called Nixalite.
The easiest option for homeowners to use anti-roosting spikes is to buy spike strips that come with adhesive on the flat side.
Just peel off the paper on the back of the strip and lay the spikes flat on the ledge, pipe, or other surfaces you want to protect to make pigeons fly away.
Pigeon spikes can also be attached with nails or tie-downs. Occasional cleaning to remove accumulated debris may be necessary.
Never install pigeon spikes on a horizontal surface, such as a wall. Pigeons can use the spikes to hang a nest that they otherwise could not build.
Put up bird netting
Bird nets prevent birds of all kinds from flying to the area under the net. When you need to protect trees, or a deck, or eaves and gables you have not yet inspected and repaired, they are a good option.
How do you know where to put up bird netting?
If you find an old nest, then you know at least one pair of pigeons thought that site was a good place for nesting.
You need to remove old nests before you put up bird netting. The smell of excrement attracts a new nesting pair of pigeons.
Pigeon nests are permeated by excrement. Spray them with disinfectant before you handle them, allowing the disinfectant to dry before you move the nest. Always wear gloves when you pick up a pigeon nest to throw it in the trash.
When you have removed pigeon nests and pigeon poop, then put up the netting.
Install a motion-activated sprinkler system
When you need to keep pigeons out of your yard, consider installing a sprinkler system that is activated by overhead motion (that is, with a sensor pointed up, not out, so it isn’t set off by animals walking on your lawn or by tree limbs blowing in the wind).
Sending out a spray of water in every direction will keep pigeons from landing on your lawn, and the motion activation feature will ensure that your lawn doesn’t get soggy.
Tack weatherproof string over favorite pigeon nesting sites
Nearly-invisible weatherproof string hung where pigeons like to come in for rest is an effective method of keeping pigeons off your property.
When they reach down and try to grip the surface of the ledge, awning, or eave where they ordinarily roost, the string keeps them from getting a grip that allows them to stay still.
Tie the string so it stays taut about an inch (25 mm) above the surface where pigeons like to roost. Use weatherproof string so you won’t have to replace it for several years.
Say bye, bye birdie with strips of reflective plastic
A no-kill, low-tech method of discouraging pigeons from flying around your house is hanging strips of reflective plastic that move around in a gentle breeze.
The glares from the plastic temporarily blind the birds so they can’t approach the structure you are trying to protect.
A common brand of reflective plastic for this purpose is called Firefly.
Remove your bird-bath
One of the reasons that people hate pigeons is that they take over bird-baths to the exclusion of songbirds and other birds with more attractive plumage.
If your birdbath has been taken over by pigeons away, remove it until you have a chance to get your pigeon problem under control.
If your birdbath is too heavy to move, avoid refilling it, and empty it when it rains.
Protect fruit and vegetables with heavy-duty pigeon netting
Pigeons will gobble up your fruit and vegetable harvest before your veggies have matured and before your fruit is ripe.
Protect your fruit and vegetable garden with heavy-duty pigeon netting, hung so the net is at least six inches (15 cm) out from the plants you are protecting.
Polypropylene netting is easy to handle and won’t break down in sun and rain.
Put up an ultrasonic sound generator
Pigeons can hear frequencies much higher than those heard by humans. Loud high-frequency sounds won’t be noticed by people but can cause irritation to pigeons.
Ultrasonic bird repellers can generate pigeon distress calls, but it isn’t the distress call that keeps pigeons away. If they hear the call a number of times without seeing any changes in their environment, they will just ignore it.
However, loud ultrasound is irritating to the birds and discourages nesting and roosting. Some units affect birds over an area of about an acre (4000 square meters).
Sonic generators usually aren’t effective the first time you use them. Consistent use for about a month may be necessary to get results.
What about sonic cannons, devices that emulate the sounds of gunshots?
Sonic cannons are highly effective at eliminating pigeons in a radius of up to about 300 feet (around 100 meters).
They emit loud, audible sounds at random intervals 24 hours a day to keep birds of all kinds away from your property.
If you live in a built-up area, of course, your neighbors are sure to object to the noise. And even if you live out in the country, you are likely to find the shot-like sounds day and night to be disturbing.
Give your pigeons a shocking experience
Shock tape discourages pigeons from roosting on your property. When they land on the shocking tape, they receive a mild but painful electric shock that sends them flying away.
Standard shock tapes are 200 feet long (50 m in Canada). They are nearly invisible, so the shock will come as a surprise to the pigeon attempting to roost on your house.
Shock tapes can be charged with 2D batteries, with a solar power generator, or with a rechargeable unit you plug in a wall socket for periodic charging. Place shock tapes where they won’t be found by children or pets.
Place a cap on your chimney
Your chimney is an ideal nesting place for pigeons. It’s dark, it’s warm, and it’s out of sight of larger, predator birds.
Capping your chimney with bird netting is essential for keeping your pigeon population, but before you seal the top of your chimney you want to make sure there are no birds inside.
Coax any pigeons in your chimney out of their nests by placing a cardboard box opened upward in your fireplace. Make sure the box fits snugly so the pigeons won’t escape and fly into your house.
Turn on a flashlight, and pull out the box just long enough to put the flashlight in the box. Any pigeons in your chimney will fly down to investigate.
Then you need to use your ingenuity to trap the birds in the box and quickly cap your chimney. Once you have your chimney capped, then you can relocate the birds far, far away.
Smaller mesh is better at keeping animals of all kinds out of your chimney, but it requires more maintenance to make sure it doesn’t become matted with creosote and soot.
Have a chimney cleaning expert come out at least once annually to make sure your chimney is maintained in a non-hazardous condition. And if you can’t get birds out of your chimney on your own, don’t hesitate to call a professional.
A quick note on some methods you shouldn’t use for pigeon control.
There are a few methods of getting rid of pigeons we don’t recommend.
- One is a poison called avitrol. It makes pigeons sick. Some pigeons will die. The idea behind avitrol is that if a lot of pigeons see a few pigeons getting sick and dying, then the flock will fly away. However, this poison kills desirable birds as well as pigeons, and birds won’t conveniently die where it is easy to collect their bodies before they decay and become extremely odorous. Counterintuitively, killing a few pigeons usually increases the size of the flock. There is temporary less demand for food, so the remaining birds are more likely to reproduce.
- Many homeowners try to trap and release methods to relocate pigeons at a distance from the properties. We just advise that these birds aren’t called “homing pigeons” for nothing. They will find their way back to your property after they have been released.
- Some homeowners put out fake owls, sold as decoy owls, in an attempt to scare pigeons away. A stationary fake owl won’t scare pigeons, although an animatronic owl might. The solar-powered Dalen Gardeneer Solar Owl can use solar power to move its head like a real owl.
- There are glues designed to glue pigeons to a ledge on a building you don’t care about so they don’t fly to the building you are trying to protect. The pigeons starve and die, or they may fall prey to larger predatory birds. Either way, they create an even more putrid mess of dying birds that is harder to clean up than pigeon poop. Also, at some point, you will have to remove the glue.
- We also don’t recommend any efforts to stop pigeons from landing at the first-floor level. They will at least need to be at the height of the roof of a one-story house.to avoid their predators If you live in a one-story house, for instance, you don’t need anti-roosting spikes on your bedroom window (except in unusual circumstances). If you are trying to keep pigeons off a taller building, you only need to work to about the fifth floor. Pigeons prefer to roost close to their food supply.
Any method of getting rid of pigeons is likely to be a temporary solution.
Once you have pigeons, they will keep coming back as long as they are alive. But you can at least keep conditions less than ideal for pigeons so they won’t come back for long.
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