The wild domestic pigeon, or rock dove, a native of Europe and Asia exists in wild flocks throughout most of Michigan. Although an interesting addition to both urban and rural areas, its numbers can increase to the point where its droppings create a nuisance and potential health hazard, deteriorate structures and equipment, and contaminate stored foods and feed. At this point damage control is often desired.
Pigeons often become a problem on homes and other building when the architecture of the building or improper maintenance creates ideal roosting and nesting spots. Pigeons often roost and nest on ledges where roofs and eves join and sometimes on wide window sills. Prevent roosting and nesting by boxing in these areas with plywood or lumber, or by enclosing them with hardware cloth to eliminate roosting sites. In many older buildings, grain elevators and feed mills, broken windows, doors, and damaged wood work and roofing allow pigeons into buildings where they roost and nest. The only solution is to make the necessary repairs.
Many of the materials available for repelling pigeons from buildings are usually worthless. In general, any auditory or visual repellent for pigeons will only be effective for a few days. Pigeons soon learn that plastic owls, aluminum foil twirlers and flashing lights are harmless or can be avoided. Pigeons do not seem to respond to exploding noises, flares or electronic calls. The one exception is a simulated electronic call which after a period of time will drive pigeons away. However, this device is quite expensive, limited in range and affects human beings as well as pigeons.
Several commercially available wire barriers will prevent roosting and nesting. Stiff wires project in various directions, making it impossible for pigeons to land where the wire barriers are affixed. If roosting surfaces are numerous, however, installation costs can be quite high.
Glue-like, sticky repellents are applied to roosting and nesting surfaces. Their extremely sticky, gluey consistency makes such surfaces unpleasant to pigeons, and they abandon them. Sticky repellents come in spray, aerosol and tube jelly forms, and can be applied to metal, stone, wood, masonry, and vegetation. The spray is best suited to use on vegetation; the tube form may be best on rafter or ledges.
Pre-treat porous material with silicone or strips of tape to prevent absorption. It is essential to treat all roosting surfaces. Otherwise, pigeons may be repelled from one roosting surface to another on a partially treated structure. Where roosting surfaces are extremely numerous and access is difficult, application costs can be quite high. In dusty areas, application may be necessary as often as every six months.
Population Reduction - Trapping
Pigeons are easily trapped by a wide variety of traps, but the most effective is the walk-in trap with a one-way wire bob door. This trap may be large or small, but in general, large traps are most effective because both grain and water can be used as bait and the large number of already trapped pigeons will decoy additional pigeons. The trap may be of any desired design, shape or size large enough for pigeons as long as it includes a one-way bob-wire door.
Bobs are individual, free-swinging, heavy-gauge 8 inch long wires or metal rods spaced 1 1/2 inches apart and suspended from the top of the door into the trap. The bottom ends of the bobs rest against the inside edge of the sill on the bottom of the door so that they swing freely and easily inward, but not outward. Pigeons will walk into the trap, pushing the bobs inward as they go. When the bobs drop back into place, the pigeon is trapped.
Placement of the trap is extremely critical. Place it where pigeons normally feed. If this is not possible, prebait the pigeons to a trap site. Once the pigeons begin to feed heavily on the prebait, place and bait the trap on that site, but wire up the bobs so that the door is always open. This accustoms the entire flock of pigeons to going in and out of the trap to obtain food. As soon as the pigeons feed heavily in the trap, unfasten the wire bobs so that they now swing down into place. The entire flock should be caught within one or two days.
If all the pigeons are not trapped, wait two or three weeks and repeat the entire operation. Trapped pigeons can be destroyed by quickly wringing their necks or by drowning in a small cage or burlap sack. It is futile to transport the birds to a new locality and release them, since they probably will return to the capture site before the person who released them.
Several cities have found that a strictly controlled shooting program manned by carefully selected volunteers can quickly reduce pigeon populations at the minimum cost with minimum hazard. Operations in large cities have had no accidents or damage other than a few broken windows due to falling pigeons shooting is usually done early on weekend mornings, however, public acceptance of such a program is highly variable.
In smaller areas, such as a farm, a shooting should be done quickly and intensively by several shooters. Occasional shooting soon makes the surviving pigeons extremely wary and difficult to eliminate.
A commercial chemosterilant, trade name ornitrol, is available to government agencies and pest control operators in grain bait form. When ingested by the pigeons, the chemosterilant prevents them from reproducing, thus allowing natural mortality to reduce the pigeon population gradually over a period of a year or two. This method is most applicable where residents desire pigeon control, but strongly object to any direct, lethal control.
A chemosterilization program must be conducted on a total area basis, such as an entire town, city or even a township, because it is futile to sterilize one flock. The natural mortality in the treated flock will be quickly replaced by juveniles produced from surrounding flocks. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that all flocks within the given area of control, such as a city, be fed the chemosterilant treated bait.
Pigeons must feed for 10 days twice a year on the preparation before it takes effect. Site prebaiting is necessary, and a chemosterilant control operation may require intensive and widespread baiting. Unfortunately, such an intensive widespread program, if not carefully regulated, may be more dangerous to non-target species than an intense, localized, lethal control that can more easily be confined to the pigeon population. A permit is required from Law Enforcement Division, Michigan DNR.