When your Nuisance Animal is a Bird...
The feral pigeons found in Florida and North America are extremely variable in coloration. They exhibit the full range of coloration that domestication and selective breeding have produced. All pigeons that were developed from rock doves ( Figure 1 ) have a white rump, usually a white diamond-shaped patch just above the tail feathers. In white birds the white rump blends with the general body color. Many pigeons have retained the ancestral rock dove coloration: gray body, darker gray head and neck, white rump, dark band on the end of the tail, dark wing tips, and two black stripes running along the back edge of each wing. The total length is around 11-13 inches (28-33 cm).
Range and HabitatThe pigeon is found throughout Florida, congregating in urban, suburban, and rural agricultural areas. It is hard to know the range of the ancestral rock dove because feral pigeons are so widely distributed, but they are believed to naturally occur in southern Europe, the middle east and north Africa. Rock doves nest on protected cliffs and inside the mouths of caves. Human cities are made of artificial cliffs (buildings) and caves (attics, abandoned buildings, open warehouses) so these pigeons feel at home and flourish.
Food and Food SourcesPigeons feed primarily on seeds and grain, but in urban areas they also eat human food scraps like bread crumbs, etc. Bird feeders provide a primary food source for pigeons in urban and suburban areas. Pigeons are especially fond of cracked corn and sorghum or milo seeds in general bird seed mixes. In agricultural areas pigeons eat or contaminate large amounts of livestock feed. Pigeons are not picky about their food: they are often seen picking undigested seeds from the feces of livestock.
ReproductionPigeons breed year round in Florida. The nests are simple platforms of sticks built in sheltered locations on horizontal ledges. Pigeons commonly nest on man-made structures; window ledges, balconies, under bridges, in barns and open warehouses, on or behind signs, and in soffits and attics of houses. They enter attics through missing soffit panels or attic vents. A clutch normally consists of 1 or 2 eggs. The incubation period is 16-18 days and fledglings leave the nest at 4-6 weeks of age. Adult pigeons feed their babies a material secreted by their crops called "Pigeon's milk".
Aesthetic and Economic ProblemsPigeon droppings deface many urban buildings, monuments, and public spaces. The uric acid (white material) in their droppings is not just unsightly; it can damage the finish on buildings, automobiles, etc.. When birds occupy warehouses and defecate on stored goods, this creates an expensive problem for the warehouse management when their customers (retailers) refuse to accept contaminated goods.
Health-Related ProblemsThe most common problem associated with feral pigeons nesting in buildings is bird mites invading the human occupied space during or after the nesting season. Bird mites, like northern fowl mite and tropical fowl mite, will bite humans and cause a small pustule, similar to a chigger bite. Pigeons are also important reservoirs and vectors of reintroduction of fowl mites into previously treated poultry houses. Pigeon nests canalso be a source of stick-tight fleas, soft ticks, bed bugs, and dermestid (carpet) beetles invading buildings.
Pigeons have been long associated with disease organisms transmissible to humans and livestock. These include: 13 bacterial diseases including salmonellosis ( Salmonella food poisoning), fowl typhoid, paratyphoid, pasteurellosis , streptococcosis , and tuberculosis ; five fungal diseases including aspergillosis, blastomycosis and histoplasmosis ; six protozoan diseases including toxoplasmosis and coccidiosis; chlamydiosis ; the rickettsial disease Q Fever; eight viral diseases including eastern equine and St. Louis encephalitis, Newcastle disease and fowl pox of poultry; the tapeworms in the genus Taenia, Davainea proglottina, and Railletina tetragona ; four genera of parasitic nematodes of poultry including Tetramares (2 sp.), Capillaria (5 sp.), and Acuaria spiralis ; and 14 parasitic flukes of poultry, livestock, and humans.
Pigeons are generally a more serious disease vector to livestock, especially poultry and egg producers, than to humans. Still, the presence of pigeons where food is prepared or people eat-such as picnic areas and outdoor restaurants-should be a cause for concern about the spread of Salmonella bacteria.
ControlExclusion is always the best option to a nuisance wildlife situation. Exclusion will also prevent most situations from developing. Make sure all attic and soffit vents are properly screened to keep birds and other animals out.
Large openings filled with heavy door curtains of plastic strip discourage entry; once inside, pigeons can be discouraged from roosting on ledges and light fixtures by installing sloping surfaces over the flat surface. This can be as simple as a board or sheet metal installed to create a 45o or greater slope ( Figure 2 ).
Birds nesting inside or behind signs can be excluded by sealing the edges of the sign with hardware cloth and silicon caulk or with plastic bird netting.
In large open structures, like barns and warehouses, close off the space above the rafters where pigeons roost and nest with industrial bird netting.
Pigeons can be deterred from roosting on railings or pipes by suspending a wire or monofilament line 1½ -2 inches over the center of the roost surface so that the birds will be off balance.
Tactile repellents used for pigeon management may be mechanical like porcupine wire ( Figure 4 ), wire loops, electrified wires on roosting surfaces, or sticky substances, usually containing polybutene. All the methods listed make surfaces uncomfortable or impossible for birds to roost on.
This document is Fact Sheet SS-WEC-117 (UW117), one of a series of the Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Originally published in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Nongame Wildlife Program. Publication date: October, 1996. Revised: August 200. Please visit the Edis Web site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu
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Removal and control of wildlife including raccoons, squirrels, opossums, bats, birds, pigeons, snakes, critters, armadillos, feral cats, fox, bobcat, and coyotes in the Central Florida, Tampa Bay and West Palm Beach areas.
Trapping in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Citrus, Sumter, Lake, Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach. Counties.