pigeons

Spring Pigeon Roosting Season is Fast Approaching: Humane Ways to Minimize Pigeon Damage and Risks

By Marcia Anderson

Pigeons in NYCPigeons, pigeons, everywhere. They are an integral part of New York City living, as common as yellow cabs and street vendors. Getting rid of all the pigeons is unrealistic and on the positive side, these birds perform valuable services in removing food waste and/or eating harmful insects. But urban pigeon problems can range from excessive noise to large quantities of excrement deposited on sidewalks, cars, and buildings.

When they roost in an area, pigeons leave behind feathers and nesting material, fleas and bird mites, and of course, most of all, they leave lots of droppings. Pigeon droppings are not only unsightly, they are also highly caustic and can wear down stone, degrade marble statues and building materials, corrode metal and car paint, and potentially threaten structural integrity. For example, pigeon excrement on gas station canopies can clog downspouts leading to their collapse during rainfall. The droppings are also unsanitary; they are high in nitrogen, and can grow fungus or bacteria. People can inhale the fungal spores and contract the lung disease histoplasmosis. Pigeons also carry salmonella, cryptococcosis, and other diseases.

If pigeons are a nuisance on your building here are a few tips to try:

Exclusion: A variety of products are available to prevent birds from loafing on ledges.

  • Inspect for nests, and remove them every two weeks. Focus on keeping pigeons out of buildings and other spaces.
  • Screen all soffit vents and other potential entry points with rust-proof wire mesh.
  • Keep pigeons off ledges by covering them with a sloping piece of plastic or sheet metal. The bird slope is a humane method to discourage roosting of birds on buildings and ledges. As the name suggests, the triangular-shaped item made of heavy plastic attaches to gutters or ledges with the slope facing outward. The bird slope leaves birds without any way to roost or land on the building.
  • Nonelectric products include spikes, coils, and wires. They are easily installed and have a high rate of success. Bird spikes are placed on building ledges and gutters with the spikes spaced closely together leaving birds with no place to roost or land. They are made of heavy plastic, resemble toothpicks and work on flat or curved surfaces. This device is also a humane way to prevent roosting pigeons.
  • Electric products employ nonlethal electric pulses to discourage birds from roosting. These devices may be powered through plugging the charger into an electrical outlet or by solar panels that charge a battery.
  • Light Mylar streamers and raptor silhouettes move easily in the wind and temporarily scare off birds. However, pigeons can quickly grow accustomed to them.
Habitat Modification: The best way to control pigeon populations is through the removal of food, water and roosting sites.

Solutions that either don’t work or are potentially dangerous to non-target wildlife:

  • Loud noises are more likely to annoy neighbors than pigeons. City birds are used to city noises and don’t seem to startle easily.
  • Ultrasonic noises: ultrasonic sound waves bounce off objects, creating spots where pigeons can avoid the sound, plus they may damage the hearing of cats and dogs.
  • Pigeon poisons and chemical repellents are available, but they can kill or sicken other birds or animals.
  • Sticky repellents are not recommended. Other birds may come into contact with the repellent, which may impair their ability to fly or stay warm if the product comes into contact with their feathers.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Disappearing Pigeons and Rats from a Bronx High School

By Marcia Anderson

Pigeons and rats are disappearing from the terrace, roof and sidewalks of the Roosevelt High School building at 500 Fordham Road in the Bronx, thanks to a pair of red-tailed hawks and their three eyasses, or nestling hawks, which have made the pediment of Collins Hall at the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University  their home. The red-tailed hawk is a large bird of prey, breeds throughout North America and is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The birds have been a mainstay in New York City with many known nesting sites in Manhattan and the Bronx:  5th Avenue, 888 Seventh Avenue, St. John the Divine, Highbridge Park, Inwood Hill Park, South Riverside Park, Houston Street, and Shepard Hall, City College and the Fordham University site.  All sites had productive nests with offspring this past spring.

Over the years, the hawks have nested everywhere from the American Museum of Natural History to the Unisphere in Queens. In 2004, there was a public uproar over a Fifth Avenue co-op building’s decision to destroy a red hawk nest, which had grown to a size of eight feet and 400 pounds. Fordham is an ideal location for the hawks as  there are plenty of squirrels, rats and pigeons for the hawks to prey on while having no predators to worry about.

A Red-tailed Hawk

Garbage and rats are an increasing problem on the sidewalks surrounding the Roosevelt High School building, because the Department of Sanitation has reduced the number of dumpsters allowed for school use throughout New York City.  The garbage bags pile up outside of school buildings and become rat magnets.  The head custodian at Roosevelt High School is very careful not to place highly toxic pesticide baits for the rats outside of the building in an effort to prevent any secondary poisoning for non-target birds or mammals. Secondary poisonings occur when birds of prey, pets, or other wildlife find carcasses, or slow moving rats that have been poisoned by rodenticides. They feast on the toxic rat bodies and could be killed by the toxins themselves.  The custodians use snap traps and less toxic baits in bait stations instead.

The red hawks and their fledglings have done an excellent job reducing the rat population in the area around Fordham University, along with the problem of pigeon debris left on the roof and terraces of the high school and other nearby buildings. Take home message: There is more than just pesticides that can reduce the number of  rats, mice and pigeons in New York City!

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.