Pigeon (Columba livia) Integrated Pest Management Plan
This document contains information about the biology and management of the pigeon (Columba livia). A wide range of management options is listed. From this list, the IPM Practitioner can choose options to develop a unique management plan for each particular customer site.
Management Objectives for the Pest at the Particular Site
What do you want/need to accomplish at the site in regard to the pigeon?
The answer to this question will vary, depending on the site and the customer.
- Adults are typically 13 inches (33cm) in length and weigh about 13 oz.
- They are a stocky, robust bird that range in color from white to black but are usually bluish gray with black bands.
- The head feathers are often dark with greenish-purplish iridescence on the neck.
- The bill is shot and lacking teeth.
- The tail is short, rounded and fan-like.
Why the Pigeon is Considered a Pest
- Pigeons are present in almost every city in the U.S. and in most rural areas. They are worldwide in distribution except for the cold northern and southern areas.
- More than 50 diseases and ectoparasites, such as the northern fowl mite, have been associated with pigeons, their nests, and droppings. One of the best known cases of a pigeon associated disease is the lung disease histoplasmosis.
- Pigeon droppings deface and accelerate deterioration of statues, buildings and equipment.
- Pigeon droppings and nests clog gutter downspouts and air intakes.
- Droppings and feathers can also contaminate large quantities of livestock feed and food for human consumptions.
Special Regulatory Conditions
Article 11 Section 581 of the San Francisco Department of Public Health code states that:
“No person shall have upon any premises or real property owned, occupied or controlled by him or her, or it any public nuisance.”
Public health nuisances are defined as:
“Any noxious insect harborage or infestation including, but not limited to cockroaches, bed bugs, fleas, scabies, lice, spiders or other arachnids, houseflies, wasps and mosquitoes…”
Biology and Behavior of Pigeons
To be successful, management strategies must take into consideration the biology and behavior of pigeons. Understanding the biology of a pest can reveal weaknesses and vulnerabilities that can be exploited when trying to manage the pest.
- Pigeons are monogamous, pairing and mating for life.
- Eggs are laid usually 8-12 days after mating but can take as few as 2 days. There are typically several broods per year with 1-2 eggs per clutch.
- These small, white, oval eggs require an incubation of 17-19 days.
- Hatchlings (squabs) are almost featherless and are completely dependent on their parents for food and warmth.
- For the first 5 days of the hatchlings life, they are fed predigested food called “pigeon milk.”
In the next 5 days, water and grain are added to the “milk|, and then eventually their diet consists of only grain and water.
- Young pigeons make their first flight around 35-37 days old but usually will not leave the nest for 4-6 weeks.
- Breeding is year round but will peak in spring and summer.
- Pigeons have color vision, hearing similar to human, but have poor sense of taste and smell.
- Pigeons are capable of conditional learning.
- Pigeons prefer to feed on seeds grain, some fruit, and green feed. They will also readily consume garbage, insects, spiders, livestock manure, and discarded food.
- When feeding pigeons prefer flat, smooth surfaces, such as roof tops.
- An adult pigeon will consume about a pound of food a week.
- Pigeons prefer to feed near the nesting site but will often travel far distances in search of a meal.
- Nests are usually constructed from sticks, stems, leaves, and other debris but other materials are used as well.
- Nests are usually built on ledges of structures, cliffs or caves. The availability of ledges for nesting sites is what draws the pigeons into cities.
- Roosting sites are where pigeons rest or sleep and typically involve a perch high off the ground. These roosting sites may or may not be near the nesting or feeding sites.
- When pigeons are not feeding, nesting or roosting they are loafing and may occur anywhere pigeons are not disturbed.
- Pigeon droppings are highly acidic and can easily destroy statues, buildings, car finishes and so on.
Factors that Favor Pigeons
- Poor sanitation provides pigeons with a steady food source when large quantities of discarded food, garbage and other debris are improperly discarded.
- Large flat, open spaces on roofs, ledges, window seals or other potential nesting sites will attract pigeons.
- Food and water supply within cities is usually adequate to support a large pigeon population.
Monitoring and Record Keeping
The purpose of monitoring is to track pest activity in order to catch small problems before they become overwhelming. Monitoring also makes it possible to properly time pest management actions and to evaluate the effectiveness of those actions. Records are kept to document the methods and products used and to record information that can be used to fine-tune pest management methods and plan future actions.
Visual inspection is the best for monitoring method.
The “tolerance level” is the number of pigeons that triggers action to control the pest. The tolerance level is site-specific and differs depending on the customer, the location, and other factors. Determining the tolerance levels for a site helps prioritize work that must be done to control the pest.
Pests need food, water and shelter to survive. Pests also need access to a structure and a way to move around within the structure in order to make them a nuisance inside a building. If even just one of these factors can be reduced (or eliminated), the environment will support lower pests and pests will be less likely to invade our living spaces.
To limit food and water availability
- Reduce number of temporary water sources such as puddles, leaks, or any open container of water.
- Properly discard garbage and food items in and around infested area in a container which inhibits access to birds.
To limit shelter/ harborage availability
- Structural modifications to reduce nesting, roosting, and loafing sites:
- Change ledge angle to 45°
- Install plastic netting
- Use repellants such as plastic or metal spines, monofilament or steel lines, or gel or pastes.
Physical controls employ physical means to remove pigeons or prevent their access to or movement within a structure.
- Exclusion is the best method for controlling the pigeon population in a city or non-rural area.
- Structural modifications to buildings to discourage pigeons, such as spines, netting, and gels, help to deter pigeons from nesting, roosting and loafing.
- Trapping and releasing pigeons elsewhere is not an option due to their homing abilities. Pigeons will usually return to the same place where they were trapped and continue to cause problems.
Chemical controls are used to directly suppress a pigeon population.
- Birth control for pigeons can be administered and over time the pigeon population can be significantly reduced.
- Chemical frightening agents use grains coated with a material that elicits distress symptoms and calls when consumed and can repel the rest of the flock from the area.
The IPM Partnership
The PCO-Customer Partnership is Very Important
IPM works best when the customer and Pestec form a partnership to tackle the pest problem. Pigeons cannot be managed satisfactorily without the cooperation of the customer, especially in the area of sanitation. Pestec will discuss the findings of the initial inspection and any subsequent monitoring sessions with the customer to determine which issues and tasks will be the responsibility of Pestec and which will be the responsibility of the customer.
Information is a powerful tool in IPM. Information can help change people’s behavior, particularly in how they store food and dispose of waste. Changing these behaviors is often an invaluable part of managing pigeons. Buildings occupants and homeowners can also help in the early detection of pests so that Pestec can be alerted before the problem is severe.
Pestec’s highly trained and knowledgeable staff can provide pest management education or training sessions for facilities managers, risk managers, building occupants, homeowner associations, and others.