knowledge base feral pigeons


The Feral Pigeon (Columba livia domestica or Columba livia forma urbana )

Pigeon Problems

Q: What are feral pigeons?

A: Feral pigeons, also known as city or street pigeons, are descended from domesticated homing pigeons. They’ve adapted well to urban environments and are commonly found in towns and cities across the UK.

Q: What problems do feral pigeons cause?

A: Feral pigeons can cause a variety of problems. They can damage buildings and monuments with their droppings, which are acidic and corrosive. They also carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and other animals, and their nesting habits can block gutters and chimney stacks.


Q: How can I prevent feral pigeons from roosting on my property?

A: There are various ways to deter pigeons from roosting, including the use of spikes, netting, and wires to block off areas where they might land or nest. Ultrasonic devices, visual deterrents, and pigeon repellents are other options.


Q: Can feral pigeons spread diseases?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can carry and spread diseases such as salmonellosis, pigeon ornithosis, and E. coli. These can be transmitted to humans through contact with pigeon droppings or inhalation of dust from dried droppings.


Q: What is the best way to clean up pigeon droppings?

A: It is important to handle pigeon droppings with care due to the potential for disease transmission. They should be thoroughly wetted down to reduce dust before being cleaned up, and anyone cleaning them should wear protective clothing, including a mask and gloves.


Q: Can I use poison to control feral pigeons?

A: It is illegal to use poison to control pigeons in the UK. It’s important to use humane and legal methods for pigeon control, such as deterrents and professional pest control services.


Q: Can I remove a pigeon nest from my property?

A: It’s legal to remove feral pigeon nests in the UK, but it’s recommended to use professional pest control services to ensure safe, effective and legal compliance before removal.


Q: How quickly can feral pigeons reproduce?

A: Feral pigeons can breed year-round, with a pair capable of producing several broods a year. This rapid reproduction is one reason why pigeon populations can quickly get out of control.


Q: Can feral pigeons damage my roof?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can damage roofs. Their droppings are corrosive and can wear down roofing materials over time. The weight of many birds roosting together can also potentially cause damage.


Q: Are feral pigeons protected in the UK?

A: Feral pigeons are protected in the UK and can only be controlled under general licences issued by Natural England and other country-specific environmental bodies.


Q: What are the signs of a feral pigeon infestation?

A: Common signs of a feral pigeon infestation include large amounts of bird droppings, continuous cooing sounds, nests in gutters, lofts or balconies, and the constant presence of birds on roofs or ledges.


Q: Can feral pigeons be aggressive?

A: While feral pigeons are typically not aggressive towards humans, they can become defensive and aggressive if they feel their nest or young are threatened.


Q: Why are feral pigeons attracted to urban areas?

A: Feral pigeons are attracted to urban areas due to the abundance of food, water, and safe nesting sites. Human activities often unintentionally provide these resources.


Q: How do professional pest controllers handle feral pigeons?

A: Professional pest controllers use a variety of methods to control feral pigeons, including bird netting, bird spikes, and bird wire. These methods deter the pigeons without causing them harm. In severe cases, population control methods such as egg replacement or humane removal may be used.


Q: Is it safe to feed feral pigeons?

A: While it might seem harmless to feed pigeons, it can actually encourage them to gather in large numbers, leading to the problems associated with infestations. It’s best to avoid feeding them.


Q: How can I discourage feral pigeons from nesting on my balcony?

A: You can discourage pigeons from nesting on your balcony by making the space less attractive to them. This can be done by installing bird deterrents like spikes or nets, keeping the area clean, and removing any food sources.


Q: Can feral pigeons enter my home?

A: It’s uncommon for pigeons to enter homes, but they may enter through open windows or doors if attracted by food. They may also end up inside if they find a way into attic spaces.


Q: Why do feral pigeons peck at windows?

A: Pigeons may peck at windows because they see their own reflection and think it is another bird, either a mate or a rival. Covering the window or applying bird-friendly decals can help deter this behaviour.


Q: Are feral pigeons noisy?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can be quite noisy, especially when in large groups. Their cooing sounds can be particularly disruptive in the early morning and evening.


Q: What should I do if a feral pigeon is injured on my property?

A: If you find an injured feral pigeon on your property, you should contact a local animal rescue or wildlife rehabilitation centre. They have the necessary experience to handle and care for injured birds.


Q: Are there certain seasons when feral pigeons are more of a problem?

A: Feral pigeons can be a problem year-round as they do not migrate and can breed all year. However, they might be more noticeable during the warmer months when food sources are plentiful.


Q: Do feral pigeons attract other pests?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can attract other pests like rats and insects, which are attracted to their nests and droppings.


Q: How can I humanely deter feral pigeons from my property?

A: Installing bird spikes, nets or wires can deter pigeons from landing or nesting. There are also various visual and auditory scare devices available. It’s important to keep areas clean to reduce available food and nesting materials.


Q: Can feral pigeons affect the health of my pets?

A: Yes, the droppings of feral pigeons can contain various parasites and diseases that could potentially affect your pets if they come into contact with them.


Q: Are certain areas more prone to feral pigeon problems?

A: Areas with high availability of food and safe nesting sites, such as urban and industrial areas, are more prone to feral pigeon problems. Also, buildings with ledges or areas sheltered from the elements can attract feral pigeons.


Q: Can I trap feral pigeons on my own?

A: While it’s technically possible to trap feral pigeons, it’s typically not recommended for untrained individuals due to the potential for injury to the bird and the person. Professional pest control services should be used for safe and effective pigeon control, under certain licence conditions.


Q: Are there any laws regulating the control of feral pigeons in the UK?

A: Yes, in the UK it’s illegal to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal, including feral pigeons, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. All control measures must be legal and humane.


Q: How can I tell if a pigeon is feral or a lost racing pigeon?

A: Lost racing pigeons usually have a ring around their leg with information about their owner. If you find a lost racing pigeon, you can try to contact the owner using this information.


Q: Why are feral pigeons sometimes called “rats with wings”?

A: This derogatory term reflects the negative perception some people have towards feral pigeons, associating them with filth and disease, much like rats. It’s important to note, however, that every species has its place in the ecosystem.


Q: Can feral pigeons cause harm to native bird species?

A: While feral pigeons typically coexist with other bird species, there can be some competition for food and nesting sites, particularly in urban environments. They are not typically aggressive towards other birds.


Q: Are feral pigeons harmful to gardens?

A: Feral pigeons can be harmful to gardens as they may eat seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Their droppings can also be unsightly and potentially harmful to certain plants.


Q: Why do feral pigeons bob their heads when they walk?

A: Pigeons, like many birds, bob their heads when walking to help maintain balance and to provide depth perception.


Q: Can feral pigeons carry mites or ticks?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can carry ectoparasites like bird mites and ticks, which can cause problems if they infest homes or come into contact with people or pets.


Q: Is it safe to touch a feral pigeon?

A: It’s generally best to avoid touching any wild animal, including feral pigeons, due to the risk of disease transmission or injury to you or the animal. If a pigeon needs to be handled, it should be done by a professional or with appropriate protective equipment.


Q: What do feral pigeons eat?

A: Feral pigeons are opportunistic feeders and will eat a wide range of foods, including seeds, fruits, vegetables, and human food waste.


Q: Do feral pigeons have natural predators?

A: Yes, feral pigeons have a number of natural predators, including Falcons, hawks, foxes, and cats.


Q: How long do feral pigeons live?

A: In urban environments, feral pigeons typically live for 3-4 years, although they can live longer in less hazardous conditions or in captivity.


Q: What’s the difference between a feral pigeon and a wood pigeon?

A: Feral pigeons (Columba livia) are usually grey with iridescent feathers around the neck and are found in urban areas, while wood pigeons (Columba palumbus) are larger, have a white patch on their neck, and are usually found in rural areas and woodlands.


Q: Do feral pigeons migrate?

A: No, feral pigeons are non-migratory and tend to stay in the same area throughout their lives.


Q: Can feral pigeons cause allergies?

A: Yes, feral pigeon droppings and feathers can potentially trigger allergies in some individuals.


Q: What’s the lifespan of a feral pigeon?

A: On average, a feral pigeon can live up to 3 to 4 years in an urban setting. However, many don’t survive their first year. In more favourable conditions or in captivity, they can live up to 15 years.


Q: How fast can a feral pigeon fly?

A: Feral pigeons are strong fliers. They can reach speeds of up to 50-60 miles per hour when necessary, although typical flying speeds are around 30 miles per hour.


Q: Do feral pigeons carry rabies? A: Birds, including feral pigeons, cannot carry rabies. The virus is primarily carried by mammals.

Q: What is the mating behaviour of feral pigeons?


A: Feral pigeons are monogamous and pair for life. The male will court the female by bowing, cooing, and presenting nesting sites to her.


Q: How often do feral pigeons lay eggs?

A: Feral pigeons can breed throughout the year. A female pigeon typically lays two eggs per clutch, and can have several clutches per year.


Q: Are there humane ways to control feral pigeon populations?

A: Yes, population control methods like pigeon contraception, egg substitution, and humane trapping and relocation are available. However, these methods should be implemented by professionals to ensure they are done legally and ethically.


Q: Are feral pigeons smart?

A: Pigeons are known to be highly intelligent birds. They have excellent navigation skills, can recognize themselves in a mirror, and can even learn to perform tasks and recognize symbols in scientific experiments.


Q: How can I clean up feral pigeon droppings safely?

A: To safely clean up pigeon droppings, wear protective clothing, wet the droppings down with a water spray to minimize dust, and then scoop them up and dispose of them properly. It’s also advisable to clean the area with a disinfectant afterwards. Wear a P3 dust mask.


Q: Why are there so many feral pigeons in cities?

A: Feral pigeons thrive in cities because they provide plenty of food sources and nesting sites. The absence of predators also makes urban environments safer for them.


Q: What are common diseases that feral pigeons can transmit to humans?

A: Feral pigeons can carry and transmit several diseases to humans, including histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, psittacosis, and salmonella.


Q: How high can feral pigeons fly?

A: Feral pigeons can fly at altitudes of up to 6000 feet. However, they usually fly at lower altitudes.


Q: Why do feral pigeons gather in large groups?

A: Feral pigeons are highly social birds and gather in large groups, known as flocks, for safety and social interaction. There is safety in numbers from potential predators.


Q: Are there repellents that can keep feral pigeons away?

A: Yes, there are several types of pigeon repellents available, including sprays, gels, and electronic devices. However, these are not always effective long-term solutions and it’s usually best to seek professional help for persistent problems.


Q: Why do feral pigeons coo?

A: Feral pigeons coo for various reasons, including to attract a mate, to defend their territory, or to communicate with others in their flock.


Q: Do feral pigeons harm other birds?

A: Feral pigeons are generally not aggressive towards other birds. However, they can compete with other bird species for food and nesting sites, particularly in urban areas.


Q: Why are feral pigeons often seen perching on wires or buildings?

A: Feral pigeons often perch on wires and buildings to scout for food, keep an eye out for predators, or rest. These locations also often provide a good view of the surrounding area.


Q: What are the signs of a feral pigeon infestation?

A: Signs of a feral pigeon infestation can include large amounts of droppings, constant cooing sounds, feathers around your property, and the presence of nests on or around your building.


Q: How do I prevent feral pigeons from nesting on my property?

A: You can prevent feral pigeons from nesting on your property by making nesting sites inaccessible with netting or spikes, using bird deterrents, and ensuring that food sources are secured.


Q: Are feral pigeons protected by law in the UK?

A:  All birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law, with certain exceptions under the general licence. Feral pigeons fall under the general protection of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in the UK, which means that it is illegal to cause them unnecessary suffering.


Q: Where can I get further information?

A: See As the law chances from time to time.


Q: How many eggs do feral pigeons lay at a time?

A: Feral pigeons typically lay two eggs at a time. These eggs are incubated for about 18 days before they hatch.


Q: Can feral pigeons recognize people?

A: Studies suggest that pigeons can recognize and remember human faces, particularly those associated with feeding or other positive interactions.


Q: Can feral pigeons be domesticated?

A: Feral pigeons are descendants of domesticated rock doves, so they can be tamed over time, especially if they are hand-reared from a young age. However, domesticating wild animals is generally not recommended or legal in many areas.


Q: Can I feed feral pigeons?

A: While it’s not illegal to feed feral pigeons (though you may get a fine for littering in some areas), it’s generally discouraged as it can lead to overpopulation, spread of diseases, and conflicts with other bird species. If you want to feed birds, it’s better to provide appropriate bird food in a designated bird feeder. We get many calls for rat issues associated with bird feeding.


Q: What sounds do feral pigeons make?

A: Feral pigeons make a variety of sounds, including cooing, grunting, and wing-slapping sounds. These sounds are used for communication, courtship, and warning of danger.


Q: How do feral pigeons find their way back to their nests?

A: Feral pigeons have excellent homing abilities, which they use to find their way back to their nests. They are believed to use a combination of visual landmarks, the Earth’s magnetic field, and perhaps even smell to navigate.


Q: What should I do if I find a sick or injured feral pigeon?

A: If you find a sick or injured feral pigeon, it’s best to contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or bird rescue centre. They can provide appropriate care and treatment for the bird.


Q: Can feral pigeons harm pets?

A: While feral pigeons are generally not aggressive towards pets, they can potentially transmit diseases or parasites that could harm pets. It’s best to avoid allowing pets to interact with these birds.


Q: How far can a feral pigeon fly in a day?

A: Feral pigeons can cover considerable distances if needed, but they typically stay within a few miles of their home location. In exceptional circumstances, they have been known to cover over 100 miles in a single day.


Q: Do feral pigeons like music?

A: There’s no definitive evidence to suggest that feral pigeons like music. However, pigeons have been shown to recognize and react to different rhythmic patterns.


Q: Can feral pigeons damage my property?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can cause significant damage to properties. Their droppings are acidic and can corrode materials like metal and stone. They can also block gutters, dislodge roof tiles, and create health hazards.


Q: Do feral pigeons carry ticks or mites?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can carry ectoparasites like ticks, bird mites, and fleas. These can become a problem in areas where pigeons nest or roost.


Q: How do feral pigeons handle cold weather?

A: Feral pigeons are very adaptable and can survive in a range of temperatures. They fluff up their feathers to trap warm air and reduce heat loss.


Q: Are feral pigeons a problem in the UK?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can be a problem in the UK, particularly in urban areas. They can cause damage to property, create noise and mess, and pose potential health risks.


Q: Can feral pigeons be trained?

A: Yes, pigeons are intelligent birds and can be trained to perform tasks and respond to commands. However, training should be done by professionals or experienced handlers.


Q: How do feral pigeons drink water?

A: Unlike many birds, pigeons can drink water by immersing their beaks and sucking up water, much like horses.


Q: Can I keep a feral pigeon as a pet?

A: It’s generally not recommended or legal to keep a feral pigeon as a pet. If you’re interested in keeping pigeons, there are domesticated breeds that are suitable for pet ownership.


Q: How can I discourage feral pigeons from roosting on my balcony?

A: There are several strategies to discourage pigeons from roosting on your balcony. You can use physical deterrents like nets or spikes, visual deterrents like fake predators, or sound deterrents. Ensuring food sources are not available is also key.


Q: Why do feral pigeons bob their heads when they walk?

A: The head-bobbing motion of pigeons is thought to be a part of their walking mechanics. It helps them stabilize their vision and perceive depth as they move forward.


Q: What are the most effective methods for controlling feral pigeon populations?

A: The most effective methods for controlling feral pigeon populations usually involve a combination of deterrents, population control, and habitat modification. This should ideally be done by professionals to ensure it is effective and humane.


Q: What’s the lifespan of a feral pigeon?

A: The average lifespan of a feral pigeon is 3 to 5 years, but they can live up to 15 years in optimal conditions.


Q: Do feral pigeons recognize their reflection?

A: There’s evidence to suggest that pigeons can recognize their own reflection, indicating a level of self-awareness.


Q: What’s the best time of day to observe feral pigeons?

A: Feral pigeons are most active during the day, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon. These are the best times to observe their behaviour.


Q: Can feral pigeons carry rabies?

A: No, feral pigeons cannot carry rabies. Rabies is primarily a disease of mammals.


Q: How do feral pigeons sleep?

A: Feral pigeons sleep with their head tucked under their wing, usually perched on a safe high place. They also have the ability to sleep with one eye open to watch for predators.


Q: Are feral pigeons friendly?

A: Feral pigeons are usually not aggressive and can tolerate humans quite well, especially in urban environments. However, they are still wild animals and should not be treated as pets.


Q: What does a baby feral pigeon look like?

A: Baby feral pigeons, or squabs, are born without feathers. They start to grow feathers after about a week, and by the time they’re ready to leave the nest, they usually look similar to adult pigeons.


Q: Do feral pigeons return to the same nest every year?

A: Yes, feral pigeons are known to return to the same nesting site year after year, adding to the same nest each breeding season.


Q: What do feral pigeons do in the rain?

A: During light rain, feral pigeons may continue their usual activities. In heavy rain, they will usually seek shelter.


Q: Why do feral pigeons sometimes appear one-legged?

A: Pigeons often tuck one leg up into their body feathers to keep it warm, giving the appearance of having only one leg. This is a normal behaviour.


Q: Why do pigeons coo?

A: Pigeons coo for various reasons, primarily to communicate. The cooing can be a form of courtship, a call to their mate, or a way to communicate their presence to other pigeons.


Q: How fast can a feral pigeon fly?

A: Feral pigeons can reach flight speeds of up to 50-60 mph when necessary, though typically they fly at lower speeds.


Q: Can pigeons swim?

A: While pigeons are not typically known for swimming, they are capable of swimming short distances if necessary. However, they prefer to avoid water.


Q: Do feral pigeons migrate?

A: Feral pigeons are typically non-migratory. They have adapted to live in urban and suburban environments year-round.


Q: Why do pigeons peck each other?

A: Pigeons may peck each other as part of social dominance behaviour or to show aggression. It can also be a part of courtship rituals.


Q: Can pigeons smell?

A: Recent studies suggest that pigeons do have a sense of smell and they can use it to navigate and find food.


Q: Why are there so many pigeons in cities?

A: Pigeons thrive in cities because the conditions resemble their natural cliff-dwelling habitats. Food is readily available and there are many places to roost and nest.


Q: Can feral pigeons transmit diseases to humans?

A: Yes, feral pigeons can transmit several diseases to humans including Salmonellosis, Cryptococcosis, and Psittacosis, among others. Proper hygiene and handling are essential to avoid transmission.


Q: Do feral pigeons have a hierarchy?

A: Yes, pigeon flocks usually have a social hierarchy, often based on size, strength, and aggressive behaviour.


Q: What’s the difference between a dove and a pigeon?

A: Doves and pigeons belong to the same family of birds (Columbidae), and the terms are often used interchangeably. Typically, smaller species are referred to as ‘doves’ and larger ones as ‘pigeons’.


As you can see Feral Pigeons ecology is very complex, we have extensive experience when dealing with feral Pigeon issues.

Call us TODAY for you Feral Pigeon issues on 01525 863 951.