Descendants of the wild rock dove, pigeons are the tamest of all wild birds. Traditionally, they inhabited coastal cliffs but have learned to survive in towns and cities, roosting on buildings and clearing up human debris instead. Their cousins, wood pigeons, are equally adaptable. With the loss of much of Britain’s woodland, wood pigeons have become common garden and farm birds.
While many urban dwellers accept that they share their city with pigeons, and welcome this small contact with the natural world, others say that pigeons are messy and claim they spread disease. Pest control agencies are especially keen to argue that pigeons pose a health risk, despite a lack of evidence.
In reality, birds such as chickens, who are raised in crowded factory-farmed conditions, are more likely to infect people with both salmonellosis and toxoplasmosis when they are eaten, than are live pigeons, wandering around a town.
Killing pigeons, either by poisoning or shooting, is inhumane and ineffective. Killing adult pigeons gives the younger birds a better chance of survival and allows breeding to continue. In a matter of weeks, numbers can quickly return to pre-cull figures.
We encourage tolerance and compassion but where pigeons are not welcome, there are humane ways to control their numbers. Clearing away food and encouraging the birds to roost in more convenient locations can help, as can various products such as Bird-Free gel, and installing anti-perching devices.
Five ways to help pigeons
- If your council or another local body is culling pigeons, please:
- Contact them immediately and send them this link to our Alternatives to Culling report for councils
- Tell Animal Aid, so we can also contact them
- Contact your local newspaper and tell them that there are humane deterrence methods that should be employed. See our sample letter.
- Order copies of our humane deterrence factsheet to give to anyone you know who is thinking of calling in pest controllers to get rid of pigeons (or other birds).
- Tempting as it is, please don’t feed town centre pigeons. They will find enough food already, and by encouraging them to stay, there is an increased risk of complaints, leading to them being killed.
- Counter any negative publicity in the local and national press by responding with a letter. See our sample letter.
- Support your local wildlife rescue centre.