The red bird or poultry mite can invade our homes from the nests of birds, including sparrows, starlings, pigeons or poultry. Their dependence on the pigeon has led to them becoming a serious pest. The feral pigeon (Columba livia) is a descendant of the rock dove and wild breeding populations are supplemented by escapees from pigeon lofts and racing pigeons. They have adapted extremely well to life in an urban environment.
The most prevalent pest species of cities, moving in large numbers, roosting on ledges of buildings at night, defacing and eroding the stonework by their droppings causing unsightly areas of fouling on pavements, in the entrances of buildings, stations, platforms, ledges and protected sites and structures. Large numbers of nests are found under bridges or eves and in derelict buildings. Both sexes take part in nest building constructed from a wide variety of materials such as twigs, grass, plastic items, wire and feathers. They are monogamous but will select a new mate on the death of their current mate.
They can have up to seven broods a year but breed mainly in March to July. There are usually 2 white eggs per clutch, hatching over 2-3 weeks, the fledglings leaving the nest after 5 weeks. They can breed at six months and will live for up to four years in the wild.
Pigeons in urban areas feed on food scraps, spillage and feeding by members of the public. Their principal food source is seed or grain at places such as docks and mills.
Each bird eats about 60g per day and produces about 12kg of droppings per year. Pigeons are very efficient at finding food. Pigeons are creatures of habit, feeding in flocks of 50-400 over a range of 4.5 square km. The dominant birds feed first and get the best feeding sites.
The best long-terms solution to pigeon problems is to restrict food availability. There are a wide range of proofing systems and installation techniques. The main systems are spikes, wire mesh, nets, sprung wire systems, UV repellent gels and daddi long legs for lighting posts. It is essential to select the right solution for each situation. The selection will depend on what structure the infestation has occurred and the pressure of the infestation. Visual or audio scaring techniques have limited effectiveness as pigeons habituate quickly to new objects or sounds in their environment.
Control of food in an area combined with habitat modification is really the critical factor in determining a population size or infestation pressure in an area.
Mervyn WalshBA(Hons), HDip.EnvMgt, MRSPH
Field Biologist, Ecologica Environmental