It was the PiCAS Group that pioneered the use of artificial breeding facilities (ABF’s) as a means of controlling and reducing pigeon flock size. This humane and holistic method of control is not only cost-effective but also sustainable and user-friendly.
ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT PIGEON CONTROL UPDATE
Although ABF’s can be used as a stand-alone control option and can be highly effective as such, they are more commonly provided as part of a site-wide or area-wide control system and in conjunction with deterrents and anti-roosting products. ABF-based systems come in two forms; dovecote-based systems and loft-based systems. Dovecote-based systems are normally provided as part of a town or city-wide control system and in conjunction with designated feeding areas. Loft-based systems are usually provided for the control of pigeons on a specific building or site.
A dovecote combined with a designated feeding area will be used in situations where the deliberate public feeding of pigeons is seen to be the root cause of the problem and where a reduction in flock size is the goal. The only body able to provide a system of this nature would be a council or a town or city centre management agency acting on advice from PiCAS. The basic principal of the system is to provide a centralised feeding area where the public feeding of pigeons is allowed in an effort to stop the random feeding of pigeons taking place throughout a town or city centre. Once the feeding facility has been provided a public information programme will be initiated designed to educate the public about the problems associated with feeding pigeons and the advantages to both pigeons and property owners of feeding exclusively in a centralised feeding facility.
Once a feeding area is opened for public access, a perching facility would be provided above or adjacent to the feeding area and upon which pigeons would perch during the daytime whilst exploiting food provided within the area. This would ensure that pigeons using the feeding facility did not perch on buildings in the vicinity thereby causing soiling problems for property owners. Alternatively, if a reduction in pigeon numbers is required, a dovecote facility may be provided which will not only provide pigeons with a daytime perch but also with an overnight roosting and breeding facility where flock size can be controlled by birth control. This is achieved by removing eggs, as laid, from the dovecote and replacing them with dummy eggs. This method of control will dramatically reduce pigeon flock size and is cheap and simple to maintain. Although the infrastructure required to implement this type of system is straightforward, the overall programme is complex and should not be considered unless it is being provided in conjunction with advice from PiCAS.
A loft-based system will involve the use of specially designed pigeon lofts that will be sited on a building (on a flat roof area for example) or in various locations around a site. These lofts will usually be no larger than an average sized garden shed and will be basic in design. Lofts are a cost-effective and holistic means of centralising and controlling pigeon flock size. Set-up costs for this type of system will normally not exceed a few hundred pounds and the cost of servicing the lofts will be low based on an average of 10 minutes human interaction per week. The principal of this system is to encourage pigeons away from their existing roosting and perching areas, with deterrents and anti-roosting products where necessary, and into the loft facilities where they are encouraged to roost and breed. Then, as with dovecotes, eggs will be removed and replaced with dummy eggs and flock size on the building or site concerned will reduce rapidly. This method of control is of particular benefit where pigeon-related problems are entrenched or where the installation of deterrents and anti-roosting products is complex or cost-prohibitive.
The reason that ABF’s are so effective is because pigeons are prolific breeders. Pigeons breed all year round and produce 2 young each time they breed. A normal pair of adult pigeons can produce up to 16 young each year in optimum conditions. Therefore, irrespective of what conventional controls are provided, if breeding continues unrestricted flock size can increase at a staggering rate.
The following example, based on one breeding pair of pigeons over the period of 12 months, gives an idea of how effective one small ABF can be:
• One adult pair of pigeons produce 13/14 young per year in optimum conditions
(taking 15% juvenile mortality into consideration)
• Those young birds form into 6 further breeding pairs and each young pair breeds
once in their first year of life bringing approximately 10 more young into the
world (taking 15% juvenile mortality into consideration)
• The original adult pair has produced 13/14 young and these young birds have
paired and produced a further 10 young birds
• This is a total of 23/24 young birds produced courtesy of the original adult pair in
• If you persuade the original adult pair to use an artificial breeding facility instead
of breeding in an uncontrolled environment the result is that 23/24 young birds
are taken out of the system in one year via egg removal/replacement with
• Therefore, if 50 adult pairs are resident in one loft and all their eggs are removed
over a 12 month period the number of young birds taken out of the system rises
to over 1150, courtesy of one pigeon loft
Loft-based control systems are usually of much greater value to the individual property owner than a dovecote-based system. This is because a loft-based system will be completely effective as a means of resolving a pigeon-related problem on a specific building or site. Dovecote-based systems are an extremely effective means of concentrating large feeding flocks of pigeons in one localised area, but rarely result in large numbers of pigeons using the dovecote facility for the purposes of breeding unless existing, large-scale roosts have been closed down by the local authority.
Loft-based systems can become effective within a matter of weeks following installation. One PiCAS NHS hospital client that provided two basic lofts on a site experiencing deeply entrenched pigeon-related problems was removing 40 eggs per week from the lofts within 2 months of siting the facilities. The great benefit of a loft-based system is that pigeons will readily use any type of purpose-built structure (providing that it has been designed with the pigeon in mind) and exploit it for the purposes of breeding. Dedicated pigeon lofts will not only attract breeding pairs of pigeons, but non-breeding birds will also readily take up residence in these facilities.
The major benefit of a loft-based system to a property owner or a site manager is the reduction of soiling throughout the building or site concerned combined with a massive reduction in flock size through egg removal and replacement. The cost of a loft-based system is infinitesimally small relative to the problems caused by pigeons and the cost of resolving those problems using conventional means. Not only is the cost of implementing the system extremely low but the cost of maintaining the system and servicing the needs of the loft is virtually nil.
As with a dovecote-based system, however, expert advice from PiCAS must be sought prior to considering the use of a loft-based system to control pigeons. PiCAS will advise and guide the client through the process of identifying the needs of the site concerned and whether a loft-based system would be appropriate.
In some cases deterrents and anti-roosting products will be required in order to move pigeons from existing roosting and breeding areas, but once several pigeons have taken up residence in a loft others will quickly follow. Should bird control products be required PiCAS will guide the client through the complex process of choosing the right product to suit the client’s budget and needs. PiCAS does not sell any products or installation services, nor does it have any links or ties with pest control contractors or service providers, thereby ensuring that the client is provided with completely independent advice at all times.
The industry standard method of reducing pigeon flock size, be it in an area-wide situation or on a specific building or site, is to use lethal controls such as shooting or cage-trapping and killing. These lethal methods of control are completely ineffective in reducing pigeon flock size in anything other than the very short-term. Pigeon flocks will breed back to the pre-cull level within a matter of weeks following a cull and research has proven that pigeon flock size will actually increase by between 15% and 30% following a cull. Pigeon flocks cannot be reduced in size by culling, irrespective of what method is chosen. The only beneficiary of lethal bird control is the pest control contractor that undertakes the work.
Case Study 1
A good example of how a non-lethal and holistic strategy can resolve a deeply entrenched pigeon-related problem is the success of the control system provided by Nottingham City Hospital based on advice from PiCAS.
PiCAS was invited to meet with Environmental Services Manager, Clive Young of Nottingham City Hospital’s Environmental Services Division, in May 2000 to offer advice on an effective pigeon control strategy for this extensive hospital site. Prior to involving PiCAS the hospital had been advised, by its pest control contractor, to undertake an extensive culling operation on the site to reduce an estimated 1,200 resident pigeons. This culling operation was suspended almost immediately as a result of extremely negative feedback from staff on the site and complaints from animal welfare groups together with bad publicity in the local media. PiCAS surveyed the site with staff from the Environmental Services Division and made a number of recommendations.
The following statement was made by the Environmental Services Department of Nottingham City Hospital in March 2001:
Since contact has been made with PiCAS and a visit made by Guy Merchant (Director of PiCAS), several new schemes have been in progress. Firstly, lethal culling has been suspended indefinitely. We have now employed an on-site Pest Controller, Mr. Martyn Belcher to control the pigeon population.
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Having taken advice from PiCAS, and from the catalogues recommended, Martyn has pigeon proofed many areas, at a greatly reduced cost, as opposed to using private contractors.
Martyn has developed the concept of pigeon coups by using old staff single lockers turned on their side and compartmentalised them into nest boxes. The sites chosen are large bird populated flat roofs on 3 buildings in the Trust.
Martyn leaves food, water and nest materials to encourage the birds to nest, then removes the eggs. He has also mapped out the nest sites on the Trust and visits these areas daily to collect eggs. Obviously if eggs are hatched young are left alone to fledge.
The impact on the Trust has been dramatic. In less than a year, the bird population has reduced by an estimated 50%. The cost of cleaning fouling has also reduced significantly.
Future plans include the roll-out of more coup areas, which have no cost or maintenance as we are recycling old lockers. We are, however, having a wooden coup made by our Estates Department, which will be near our wildlife corridor. Here again, the eggs will be collected.
This approach is both user friendly and non-lethal. We will continue to develop our strategy and monitor the effectiveness of the scheme. A further report will be sent to PiCAS in the Autumn.
Environmental Services Manager
As a result of their forward-thinking and lateral approach to pigeon control, Nottingham City Hospital was awarded the RSPCA Best Practices Award (2003) for adopting a humane and non-lethal strategy based on PiCAS recommendations. Since the original recommendations were made, and the hospital embarked on the PiCAS recommended pigeon control programme, the hospital’s resident pigeon population has decreased dramatically. In 2005 the hospital confirmed that the population was down to 65 birds and this is from a start figure of 1,200. These statistics prove beyond any doubt that PiCAS’s area-wide approach is as effective with sites such as Nottingham City Hospital as it is with town and city-wide control systems operated by Local Authorities and Town and City Centre Management Agencies.
The installation of anti-roosting products provided in sensitive and well-used areas of the site forced a majority of the flock to leave the site altogether and the provision of artificial breeding facilities reduced breeding amongst those birds that remained.
Case Study 2
Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC) used a loft-based system to centralise and control pigeon flocks in Camberley town centre to great effect. This inexpensive and highly effective programme demonstrates what can be achieved by a forward-thinking local authority working in tandem with property owners and local groups.
In 2001 PiCAS was invited to meet with SHBC to advise them on humane and effective pigeon management in Camberley Town Centre. The meeting was also attended by a representative of a group known as Camberley and District Animal Welfare Group (CADAWG) who had been instrumental in setting up the meeting. The Council was keen to investigate non-lethal methods of reducing pigeon flock size throughout the area and was prepared to work in partnership with both PiCAS and CADAWG to achieve their goal.
PiCAS surveyed the town centre of Camberley to establish the source of the problem in order to provide SHBC with an effective, humane and cost-effective control programme. The source of pigeon-related problems in Camberley was found to be deliberate and persistent feeding of town centre flocks by the general public.
During the course of the survey PiCAS identified one area at roof height where a pigeon loft could be sited, adjacent to one of the worst affected areas. The proposed site was a flat roof area above the town’s shopping centre. The purpose of a pigeon loft provided in this area of the town centre, close to the food source, would be to offer alternative roosting facilities for the town centre pigeon flock once they had been excluded from their existing roosts by the installation of deterrents. As with a majority of pigeon-related problems in urban areas, the soiling of buildings in Camberley town centre was clearly the main issue for property owners.
A loft-based system was recommended to SHBC as an optimum means of reducing and relocating Camberley’s pigeon flock into a facility that would be capable of housing the birds in good clean conditions, thereby reducing any potential for health-related problems within the flock. The loft facility would also allow CADAWG, who had agreed to service the loft on a voluntary basis on behalf of SHBC, to control flock size by the removal and replacement of eggs, as laid. Dummy eggs would be substituted for real eggs once a week so as to ensure that no distress was caused to the resident pigeons. A publicity campaign was also recommended to SHBC to get the message across to persistent and deliberate pigeon feeders that their compliance was required in order to reduce the volume of food available to town centre flocks. The combination of breeding controls alongside a reduction of available food would be the most effective method of reducing flock size in a humane and structured manner.
In 2003 SHBC and CADAWG, in liaison with the management of the town’s shopping centre, provided a large dedicated pigeon loft. The loft was fitted out with breeding compartments and was visited once a week by representatives of CADAWG. Any sick or injured pigeons were removed to an animal hospital to be rehabilitated prior to release, and eggs were removed as laid and replaced with dummy eggs.
Three years later, in 2006, SHBC announced that the pigeon loft had been a huge success in relation to managing pigeon flock size in Camberley. SHBC also confirmed that annual pigeon counts had revealed that flock size had stabilised at an acceptable level and pigeon-related problems, such as soiling in sensitive areas, had reduced dramatically throughout the town centre. This is an excellent working example of how councils can and should work in partnership with retailers, pigeon feeders and local groups such as CADAWG to achieve the type of success experienced by SHBC.
The programme provided in Camberley only cost a few hundred pounds of public money and achieved what many of SHBC’s neighbouring councils have failed to achieve by spending vast sums of public money on costly and wholly ineffective culling operations. As with many German cities, providing a pigeon control system based on the PiCAS model will always result in an effective, humane and cost-effective means of controlling pigeon flock size without the need to resort to outdated and ineffective culling operations.
Below is a statement from Surrey Heath Borough Council which appeared in their in-house magazine in 2006:
* Regulation of the street pigeon in Basel by Daniel Haag-Wackernagel, 1992
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