The Feral pigeon (Columba livia) was originally introduced to Australia prior to the 1870’s. Our feral pigeon population is a descendant of domesticated wild Rock doves, first released into Victoria now ranging Australia wide with the exception of Darwin.
The lifespan in the wild is up to 4 years, but can live up to 16 years in captivity. Feral pigeons mate for life and can have 3 to 4 broods a year with a clutch of 1 to 2 eggs per brood. The eggs hatch in about 18 days and the squab (chicks) leave the nest at 35 days. Feral pigeons become sexually mature by 6 months, so a population can grow large quickly with natural predation or human intervention. Breeding season is typically between July and February, but they can breed year round depending on the right conditions. Primarily a feeder of seeds pigeons will sample most foods and can be often found foraging and pecking at the ground.
The Feral pigeon is a non-migratory bird that will roost at or near their birth site. It has adapted to live completely in our urban environment. Due to these factors the feral pigeon poses many negative impacts on the urban environment and public health. These impacts are as follows;
· Public health, contamination of food and water sources, spread of diseases that can be found in dry bird faeces i.e. Salmonella, E. Coli.
· Pigeons and nests can host various parasites i.e. mites.
· Damage to buildings, structures, machinery, public properties through debris from nests and the high uric acid contend of pigeon faeces.
· Additional costs to businesses through cleaning and nest removal.
· Bird strikes, feral pigeons can pose a serious risk to aircraft especially as they flock in large numbers. Between 1991 and 2001 the ATSB recorded 53 bird strikes involving feral pigeons. With 16.9% resulting in damage to the aircraft and 30.9% involving more than 1 bird.
Before we look at control measures for a population of birds at a specific site, we need to understand “bird pressure”. The term bird pressure measures how determined a bird is to remain in the area.
Heavy Pressure: The bird is nesting or roosting at this site as there is adequate shelter from the elements and predatory animals. There would also be a food and water source a short distance away.
Medium Pressure: This is a resting site overlooking a food and water source. The bird will not roost or nest in this area.
Light Pressure: There is no food source or sheltered area at site and the birds stop there briefly during the day.
As the feral pigeon is not a protected species in Australia we have many control measures to choice from. While not being protected we must always remember to look at humane control measures.
Heavy Pressure Control:
Netting: Totally excludes birds from an unwanted area and provides long term control when installed correctly.
Baiting: Both Alphachloralose and Scatterbird are registered for feral pigeon control. Please note that bait should never be left out where non target birds can feed. Check with the state authority as permits are required.
Trapping: There are numerous pigeon traps available. Always add food, water and a shade cloth to your trap.
Medium Pressure Control:
Spikes; birdwire; coil: All provide an unstable landing platform for feral pigeons on ledges.
Electric Track devices: Are effective against all pest birds species because it utilizes the principle of fear and flight, conditioning birds to stay away with it’s harmless electrical shocks.
Light Pressure Control:
Daddi Long Legs: Deters pigeons, and other large birds from landing in open spaces such as flat roofs or air conditioning units.
Bird control is a rapidly expanding market segment, as government and private auditors now understand the impacts of pest birds on public health and business. It is important to understand the biology of the pest and the pressure it can pose to a site before offering a solution. It is equally important to understand state laws before proceeding with some control measures. With this in mind feral pigeon control can be lucrative to your business.