BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR Pigeons are really rock doves that were introduced from Europe by early settlers. They are now widespread and common across North America. Building ledges, rafters, and eaves are typical nesting sites for pigeons. The pair builds a rather messy nest in which the female lays one or two eggs. The incubation period is 17 to 19 days. The young are fed predigested food until they are weaned and leave the nest at 35 to 37 days of age. Breeding occurs during all seasons and several broods are raised each year. Pigeons live an average of five to seven years with some living more than 15 years. An adult pigeon will eat about one pound of food a week including seeds and other grains augmented with fruit, green feed, insects, and sufficient grit for digestion.
DAMAGE Pigeons are abundant in cities and around rural areas of Utah. They conflict with humans in several ways. Their droppings deface buildings, kill vegetation, and are aesthetically displeasing when deposited on benches, sidewalks, and cars. Pigeons eat and contaminate grain destined for human consumption. Pigeons carry pigeon ornithosis (psitacossis), encephalitis, Newcastle disease, toxoplasmosis, salmonella food poisoning, and other diseases. Histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that can infect people, can be contracted from accumulations of dusty pigeon manure. Pest controllers should wear a respirator when working around pigeon manure. Pigeon ectoparasites such as mites, lice, and ticks may readily bite people.
CONTROL METHODS Exclusion Pigeons can be excluded from buildings by placing hardware cloth or plastic netting over eaves, vents, windows, doors, and other openings. The angle of roosting ledges can be altered to 45 degrees or more using sheet metal or wood. Various sticky substances can be placed on ledges to discourage pigeons.
Frightening Devices Noisemaking devices and ultrasonic sound, revolving lights, and fake owls or snakes have little permanent effect for frightening pigeons from roosting areas.
Nest Removal Removing nests and destroying young also helps to depress pigeon populations, but the cost of accessing nests may make the cost to benefit ratio unacceptable.
Trapping A colony of pigeons tends to use regular feeding and roosting areas and can sometimes be controlled by intensive trapping at these locations. Large traps have been reported to be more effective than smaller ones. However, smaller traps are less expensive to build and easier to transport. Suggested baits include whole or coarse cracked corn, wheat, or milo. Water should be available in the trap at all times. Traps with funnel entrances are the most effective. Heavy prebaiting for a period of time in and around traps with the doors left open may be necessary to get pigeons to visit the trap readily. Live decoys in the trap will help attract other pigeons. White or light colored birds make better lures than drab, blue gray ones. If possible, leave the same individuals in the trap.
Baits Avitrol, a chemical frightening agent, is available as a mixed grain, corn chops, or whole corn bait for pigeon control. It is a restricted use pesticide. Birds that eat sufficient amounts of the treated bait will die, but the distress symptoms display frighten other members of the flock away. In urban areas, this chemical should be used cautiously, because high mortality can cause adverse public reaction. No other toxic baits are registered for pigeon control in Utah.
LEGAL STATUS Feral pigeons are not protected by federal law, and most states do not afford them protection. State and local laws should be consulted, however, before any control measures are taken.