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Are you looking to learn how to get rid of pigeons?
Well then, you're in the right place!
In this guide you'll learn:
- How to Identify Pigeons
- The History of Pigeons
- How to Use Bird Spikes, Traps, Poisons, Netting, and Repellents To Get Rid of Pigeons
Ready to get started?
How Can You Identify A Pigeon?
Pigeons are similar to doves but larger, with a rounded tail instead of a pointed one. They are usually 13-inches in length or more, weighing up to 8.8 ounces.
There are numerous types of pigeons but the most common variety is rock pigeons. They're usually light gray on their upper body and belly, with a darker gray on their head and breast.
Their most distinctive identifying coloration is iridescent purple and green color on their breast and neck. The males are usually larger than the females and stand taller.
They have larger beaks, with eye ceres (a fleshy growth around the eyes), round heads and thick napes. Females are shorter with smaller beaks and ceres. They have flatter heads and larger breasts than the males.
Unfortunately, since they're not native to the United States, they have no natural predators to limit their population. They were introduced to America from Europe in the 1600's and have spread like wildfire ever since.
Another way to identify pigeons is by their noisy courtship rituals. The male will puff out his chest and strut around the female bobbing his head and cooing insistently.
He will turn completely around, or circle all the way around the female during his display, or both, like a slowly spinning top circling her. Once the female accepts him, they will mate for life.
Often times they re-enact their courtship throughout their lives. They eat seeds almost exclusively. When they have young in their nest, the male and female will take turns watching over the hatchlings and going out searching for food.
Pigeons like to nest on building ledges, rooftops, girders, and the rafters of warehouses.
Factories often have quite extensive problems with pigeons nesting in the rafters of warehouses or the upper stories of an onsite power plant. It doesn't take long before their population expands to the point where they become a genuine nuisance.
Their droppings discolor machinery, stairways, railings, pallets, crates, and anything else (or anyone else) unfortunate enough to be under when they “let go.” It leaves a pungent, unpleasant odor and the biochemicals in it can accelerate the deterioration of whatever it touches.
Read Also: Differences Between Pigeons and Doves
Where Do Pigeons Come From?
Homing pigeons, carrier pigeons as they're sometimes called, were selectively bred from rock pigeons to take advantage of their innate ability to find their way home over incredibly long distances.
They can fly at a sustained speed of 50 mph over long distances, in some cases, up to 400 miles. Over short distances and sprints, they can hit top speeds of up to 90 mph!
Pigeons have been domesticated by man for thousands of years, both as food and as message carriers.
There are Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets over 5000 years old that show pigeons being domesticated and raised for food.
The earliest known references to them being used for carrying messages date back to 2500 B.C.
The Roman Empire is known to have used them in this manner, as did as the ancient Greeks. Some countries in World War I were still using pigeons to carry sensitive information.
Dovecotes, basically chicken coops for pigeons, have been around for centuries, ranging from crude huts to buildings shaped like upside-down clay pots to ornate structures in France that were designed to hold thousands of them.
Pigeons have been domesticated not only for food and carrying messages, but also for sport. Pigeon racing has been popular wherever pigeons have been kept, which is basically everywhere in the world.
Other popular sports are various forms of falconry, as well as the mass killing of the pigeons by hunters. Since the advent of gunpowder, mass shootings of pigeon have been widespread. In fact, “clay pigeons” are a direct outgrowth of this sport.
How Can You Control Pigeons as Pests?
PCO's (Pest Control Operators ) utilize four main ways of controlling pigeons and getting rid of them; bird spikes, traps, poison bait, and ultrasonic repellers. We'll discuss them one at a time.
How to use bird spikes
Anti-bird spikes, sometimes called pigeon control spikes are strips of material with long thin spikes bunched close together on them. The spikes are close enough together that pigeons can't land without injuring themselves, but not so close that they can spread their weight over them and rest on them like people who lay on beds of nails.
The strips have to be laid out – and anchored in place – in those areas where pigeons like to land.
This would include building ledges, overhead girders and beams, building rooftops, chimney tops, branches, power lines, rain gutters, fence tops, and so on. Any place where pigeons are prone to land needs to be lined with spikes.
That's a lot of linear feet to be covered, and strips of bird spikes, even when purchased in large quantities, average around $1.10-$1.15 per linear foot.
If you wanted to cover the rain gutters on a 2000 square foot house, it would require around 280-300 feet of strips, which would be around $308.00 to $345.00. The strips have to remain in place 24/7 and be promptly replaced when they wear out or come loose from wind and inclement weather.
Unfortunately, this doesn't cover the rest of the roof of your house, and pigeons can certainly land there. It also doesn't cover window ledges, tree branches, etc., etc., etc.
Using bird spikes, while certainly possible, would very quickly become prohibitively expensive if you tried to cover every possible surface where pigeons might land. Most PCO's recommend only using spikes around doors and entryways so you don't have to worry about getting – how shall we say this? – bird bombs on your head as you go in and out.
A related, but somewhat different version of bird spikes is what some people refer to as “liquid” bird spikes. This Bird-Proof Gel Bird Repellent is a clear, thick, sticky substance that has to be dispensed with a caulk gun on surfaces where pigeons like to land.
They hate getting it on their feet and will fly away. But again, there is the cost of trying to cover every surface they might land on. Luckily, there are other options.
Here's a short video showing how bird spikes should be installed.
How to use traps
Another way PCO's control pigeon populations is trapping. Bird traps are set out with bait in them, usually corn or seed of some kind. Most bird traps live capture traps.
In fact, we aren't aware of any bird traps that are designed to be deadly. Rat snap traps can be baited for birds and will certainly kill them if they set them off, but there isn't anything specifically designed for birds that is intended to be lethal.
This means that after you've captured your pigeons you either have to kill them yourself or take them away to be released somewhere else.
The problem here is obvious; pigeons, with their natural homing ability, can quickly return to their “home” from recorded distances of over 400 miles away. There are anecdotal stories of them returning from three and four times that far so this isn't much of a solution.
The only alternative is to kill them. The easiest (and least gruesome method) is to submerge the cage in a container of water and let them drown. Once they're dead you can remove them from the trap, dispose of the bodies, dry off the trap, rebait it, and reset it.
How to use poison bait
This is a bit of a sticky wicket. Bird poisons are strictly controlled. In order to use the one called Avitrol, you have to take specialized courses and be certified. Avitrol is only available from a small number of distributors and the prices are fairly high. It carries a number of warnings.
All things considered, Avitrol probably isn't the answer you're looking for. There's nothing stopping you from becoming certified if you so desire, just be aware there will be price and time requirements if you decide to go that route.
How to use netting
There are a number of good netting products for use in keeping birds away from your garden or house. If the goal is to keep them away from an area, this provides a physical barrier that does the job.
However, don't build a frame out of 2x4's since the boards themselves will give them a place to land.
Instead, stretch the nets over thin rods and spikes. Anchor them from one part of the roof to another if you're trying to keep them off your house. You can also stretch a net over your patio to keep them away.
If possible, stretch the net at the greatest angle possible. A net that is stretched flat, creating a bowl-like depression in the middle, could give them a place to land, even if they're not comfortable with it, but a net that is angled makes it much more difficult for them to land or stay on.
How to use repellents
There are a number of different items that fall under the general heading of “repellents” even though some of them, strictly speaking, are actually repellents at all.
Nonetheless, we'll treat them as such and have them listed here. The Bird-Proof Gel Bird Repellent we mentioned earlier, is technically more of a repellent than a bird spike or spikes.
When it comes to repellents, none of them alone will be 100% effective, but combing two or three different methods together will give you fairly good control. When going over the list below, keep that in mind and decide which ones you can use together to achieve the best results for your particular situation.
Reflective surfaces confuse birds and frighten them away. There are a number of items in this category; hanging reflectors, spinning reflectors, and reflector tape.
The hanging reflectors can be any shape and size, although some are shaped like owls. This is mainly human conceit, as the birds generally don't recognize the shape due to the reflective surface confusing them, all manufacturer advertising to the contrary. But the reflective surfaces are fairly good at their job.
Spinning reflectors are a form of hanging reflectors, but they're typically long spikes or stripes, almost like chimes, that twist and turn in the wind. Their reflective surfaces send shafts of light in every direction, again, confusing birds and scaring them away.
Reflective tape, sometimes known as scare tape, is exactly what it sounds like. It comes 300-400 feet on a roll and is double-sided. You can either cut strips of it and hang them from beams or branches or alternately, drape them over the area you want birds to stay away from.
You can also cut it into long strips and tape it down (with ordinary tape) to branches, fence tops, and other areas you don't want birds landing on.
Molded owl decoys
We've all seen these, molded owl decoys that are set out to scare birds away. Owls are natural predators that often feed on birds smaller than themselves.
Other birds know this and will shy away from owls when they spot them. Setting out owl decoys will be effective, but if and only if, you move the decoys every couple of days.
Read Also: Do Owl Decoys Work?
No, we're not talking about sound effects from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Predator, we're talking about natural sounds made by predators who hunt and kill small birds.
There are a number of devices that not only make predator sounds, but many of them are also decoys as well. They can be placed at strategic locations around your house and yard to scare pigeons away.
There are a few repellents such as this liquid bird deterrent that create tastes and odors birds don't like. These can be effective until it rains, after which you'll have to replace everything that was washed away.
Ultrasonic bird repellents
Finally, there are a number of different products that repel birds by using ultrasonic noises to frighten them away.
Some of them use a combination of ultrasonic and sonic sounds, that is, a combination of high pitched sounds we can hear but they can, and normal sounds all of us can hear. These are more effective than either one alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are birds building a nest on the spikes I installed?
In the pest control industry, this results from something called high pressure. High pressure is the result of birds already having a vested interest in nesting in the area where you installed the spikes.
They've probably nested there before and are determined to return. Try combining the spikes with one of the other methods listed above to keep the birds away from that area.
What is the best way to keep pigeons off the upper ledges of a building?
This is a perfect place to use spikes and reflective tape in combination with each other. Tape or glue the spikes to the ledge then cut short strips of double-sided reflective tape and secure one end to the spikes or to the ledge, letting the rest of it flutter in the wind.
Two-foot lengths of tape should be sufficient. Between the movement of the reflective surface and the sharpness of the spikes, it should be enough to discourage pigeons from taking up residence on the ledges of your building.
The following video shows how an ultrasonic bird repellent works.
Final Thoughts On Pigeon Removal
Keeping pigeons away from your home or office isn't as simple as one, two, three, and done. It takes some thought and effort.
You'll need to use two more methods in conjunction with each other for maximum effect, but a determined effort on your part will yield results if you just stick with it.