Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
Pigeons have been around for thousands of years, domesticated for their ability to deliver messages and find their way home, and you’ll notice they’re in no hurry to leave.
They’ll give you that cocked look of annoyance as they take their sweet-feathered time moseying across sidewalks and streets.
The birds are notorious for dropping their runny white excrement on your window, patio furniture, rooftop, railings and ledges, automobile and – if you’re standing in the wrong place – ooh!
Feral pigeons, or “flying rats” as Woody Allen called them in one of his movies, are a nuisance to many homeowners and businesses and a health hazard when they nest in attics, air conditioners and eaves.
Bill Cline, owner of Blue Moon Pest Control in Kingman, said pigeons weren’t much of a problem when he moved to Kingman 20 years ago, but as the town has grown over the years, so has the pigeon population.
“It’s getting to be a problem,” Cline confirmed. “We’ve got an issue behind of one of the banks. We put up bird strips, but the pigeons will just move to another building.
“The other day, I had a lady call who had an arched ledge with a strip of bird poop across the sidewalk, so I glued spikes up there and that solved the problem.”
A lot of people like to feed pigeons, and there are no laws against it in the city, said Carl Cooper, Kingman city attorney.
“The dilemma is half the people want to feed them and half don’t,” he said. “I don’t know what can be done.”
The first thing you want to do is remove their food and water source, said Danny Asplin, owner of Pesty Pest Control.
Then you want to block off favorite nesting places, often underneath the eaves and air conditioner, and put up barriers such as angled bird spikes that deter pigeons from landing.
Rooting out pigeon infestations can get quite expensive, ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 for larger commercial buildings, Asplin said.
“You’ve got to get rid of the resident birds that have lived there for a while,” he said. “Once you trap enough birds to get them out of there, you put things in place to keep them from landing.”
Poison is another option, but that comes with a lot of requirements and regulations. Asplin said a pest control company was fined $25,000 when a hawk was found dead from eating a poisoned pigeon.
Cline also recommends “bird spiders,” which are shafts with small wires coming out of them that spin in the wind, again making it difficult for the birds to land. They come in various sizes.
Mike Britt of Baron Solutions doesn’t like screens and spikes because they detract from the aesthetics of a home. He prefers a more humane, low-profile method of pigeon control such as trapping them and releasing them outside of town.
“The first thing is to make sure you eliminate access to places they can nest, up under the eaves,” Britt said. “The problem is rarely are residents or even commercial owners proactive when it comes to feral pigeons. They wait until there’s a problem.”
Feral pigeons have made their nest, produced offspring and that’s the only home they’ve known, so even if you close them off, they’ll stay close to home until you push them out into the extreme heat or cold, Britt added.
Some people prefer the sure-fire way to get rid of pigeons, plucking them with a pellet gun, but that’s prohibited in city limits, Cooper noted.
Bill Flynn, manager for Mohave County Environmental Health, said his staff will respond to calls of pigeon congregations that cause adverse environmental effects.
“We are sensitive to health and safety issues,” he said. “Excrement, insects, feathers. A common complaint we get is someone feeding pigeons.”
The county adopted an ordinance in 2009 against feeding pigeons and allowing for congregation of six or more pigeons. However, pigeon “fanciers” often breed them for racing, and that’s okay if they’re contained in a shed or coop, Flynn said.
Cleaning up pigeon excrement presents another health hazard. Make sure you wear gloves and wash your clothes afterwards as they may become contaminated with microscopic spores, Flynn recommended.
Cline of Blue Moon Pest Control said it’s best to wet down bird droppings first and wear a protective mask to avoid breathing any particles that could become airborne during removal.
Flocks of feral pigeons can be found all over town, and some of the larger flocks around Stockton Hill Road need to be trimmed out, said Britt of Baron Solutions.
“We get calls every day,” he said. “Even in some of the newer areas, you get one or two pigeons that take hold on a property and they can make for a problem.”