England: The Fight To Get Better For Feral Pigeons. By Mark (WAV).

The press took up the issue and covered it well. I spoke in defence of the birds as always !

Personal experience has shown me that, although many ‘officials’; the top people who work in regional authorities, regardless of their position and title; do not really have much a clue when it comes to pigeon management in their area.  This includes reproduction, feeding and general issues which affect them and the birds welfare.

Venus travels several miles each day to her local town to give feed to pigeons in need.  With so many clampdowns at the moment; her actions are literally a matter of life or death to many of these birds.

Some people call them ‘vermin’ or ‘flying rats’; but at the end of the day, they have a reason to exist as part of ‘the system’; are sentient creatures, and thus should be treated as such.

Feral pigeons are like stray dogs and cats; people in authority often (very wrongly) have the mindset, and undertake the principle that, if you kill of all (or as many as possible) of the birds in ‘your’ town or region, then they have largely resolved your pigeon ‘problem’ and will become a bird free town or region.

WRONG – just like the issue of stray dogs, culling pigeons often only largely eradicates the older and generally sicker, non breeding birds.  But, by undertaking a cull, it lets the younger, healthier, and very reproductive birds remain in the area, or move into the area which will be new to them; in their search for more / better food; thus; just like killing stray dogs and cats, the ‘problem’ of bird numbers actually increases populations in an area rather than decreasing it.

I am not a pigeon specialist, but I have worked with, and know a man that is.  His name is Guy and he is the founder of PICAS, set up in here in Southern England many years ago.  I learned a lot about pigeon management from Guy.

I had the pleasure of getting to know (and respect) Guy when we worked together to fight for the pigeons in my (then) local town.  His advice and expertise on the subject has always remained with me; just like the pigeon numbers that have remained or increased in the town as the local authority did not take his / our advice on pigeon management and control techniques; which I outline below.

PICAS stands for the Pigeon Control and Advisory Service, and their web site can be found at:

PiCAS Humane Non Lethal Methods of Bird Pest Control (picasuk.com)

Why lethal control fails:

PiCAS Humane Non Lethal Methods of Bird Pest Control Why Lethal Bird Control Fails (picasuk.com)

“Pigeons control their own numbers very effectively according to the volume of food available to them. An adult pair of pigeons will usually breed 4-6 times a year but can breed more frequently in optimum conditions, producing 2 young each time. If, however, the food supply reduces and there is only sufficient food available to support the existing flock, adult birds may only breed once or twice a year or possibly not at all. Pigeons will not breed if there is insufficient food to service the needs of their young.

If the food supply increases for any reason (following a cull for example), pigeons will breed continuously until the flock reaches the point where it is fully exploiting the food available to it. In other words, there is a minor population explosion each time a cull takes place.

The end result is an estimated 15% -30% increment in flock size over and above the pre-cull figure.

Commercial values have now overtaken good working practice in the pest control sector with pest control contractors recommending culling at every opportunity; as a direct result of this stance pigeon numbers throughout the UK continue to rise year on year. This is clearly not in the interest of those experiencing problems with pigeons (and other species of wild bird) and it is yet another example of the pest control industry putting profit before client’s needs”.

After a full visit and review of the local town site, Guy, with my own support, decided to present a non lethal approach to controlling and reducing pigeon numbers in the town.

A simple cote (with pigeon) used for population control.

A series of dovecotes (easily constructed – we supplied lists of materials and construction info) and feeding areas (located directly below them) were suggested as a primary means of control.  This feeding area would allow people to continue feeding the birds if they wished, (as many do), but by having the cotes; a facility will be provided which will not only provide pigeons with a daytime perch, but also with an overnight roosting and breeding facility where flock size can be controlled by birth control (important). This is achieved by removing eggs say once every day or other day, as laid, from the dovecote and replacing them with dummy eggs. This simple but very effective method of numbers control will dramatically reduce pigeon flock size and is very cheap and simple to maintain. Although the infrastructure required to implement this type of system is straightforward, the overall programme is complex and should not be considered unless it is being provided in conjunction with advice from PiCAS.

PiCAS Humane Non Lethal Methods of Bird Pest Control Artificial Breeding Facilities (picasuk.com)

Part of our dovecote presentation – Materials and construction method.

To cut to the chase; in the end, after a detailed presentation to the local council to outline our proposal; which included suggested sites around the town; construction materials lists; and cote construction sizes); allegedly due costs, council officials decided to ignore the control advice given and go instead with simply putting up a few ‘warning’ signs around the town asking people not to feed the birds. 

This method of sticking up a few signs around the town is about as useful as a chocolate fireman !

Lots of people love to feed (and watch) birds.  A few signs mean nothing.  People will always feed regardless of signage.

Nothing in the way of costing for the signage and ‘alternatives’ were given as a comparison against our proposal.

The council letter to myself outlining reasons for not taking up our suggestions.

Also, in their letter to myself (see above), the council suggested that they had been in touch with other councils and had no proof that the system proposed actually worked.  As part of our presentation; we did supply information on several councils that had adopted the PIUCAS method of bird numbers management.  The PICAS site now reflects some more recent issues:

PiCAS Humane Non Lethal Methods of Bird Pest Control Further Reading (picasuk.com)

Hey ho; some you win, some you lose.

As said, I learned a lot knowing Guy and the relationship with PICAS.  This was quite a while ago and I have not returned for years now to see the current situation re bird control in the town.

We tried, we failed; but in the end you have to ask yourself who has been the real loser in this issue.  I was glad to be part of it regardless; PICAS continues and the council ?; do they all live in a pigeon free zone now, one has to ask ? – I very much doubt.

Regards Mark

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