Reducing pigeon numbers in towns and cities

Over the last 30 or 40 years, thousands of pigeons and seagulls have been killed. Property owners and councils go to great effort and cost to eliminate these birds from our towns and cities. Despite this extensive culling programme, the numbers of pigeons and seagulls on the streets never seem to reduce.

Pigeons and seagulls love to live alongside us because humans feed these birds or leave behind food waste each day. This provides perfect levels of nourishment, enabling growth, breeding, health and good conditioning. Urban pigeon flocks will grow to a size proportional to the amount of food available, breeding an average of 3 times a year.

Some councils and bird control companies favour culling to reduce pigeon numbers. This will appear to work initially, with flock sizes being dramatically reduced. The hidden problem with this scenario is that the remaining pigeons now have more food available. This will enable them to immediately start breeding more frequently, up to 6 times a year. Should the same levels of daily food supplies remain, numbers will very quickly increase within a year to the pre-cull figure. Once pigeon numbers get close to their pre-cull flock size, breeding cycles reduce back to the average of 3 times a year, settling down to a number again proportional to the available food.

Stopping people feeding pigeons is part of the solution to stopping an infestation

The long-term solution

The only viable option is reducing the food source for pigeons and seagulls. This is a straightforward solution to identify, but implementing and enforcing any reduction policy is much more complicated. Here are a few ideas that individuals, groups or councils might wish to consider:

  • School playgrounds: Do not allow children to eat outdoors.
  • Gardens: Where possible, slowly reduce the amount of food put out on bird tables and make every effort to prevent food from falling from the tables. Try to ask neighbours to do the same.
  • Restaurants / food outlets / food production plants: Implement extra collections and systems so that zero food waste is available in or around the property.
  • Bins in public places: Again, empty more frequently and develop new bins that reduce the ability for waste to fall out or for birds to gain access.
  • Landfill sites: The only long-term solution here is to have a “zero food to landfill” policy, for example, turning food waste into fertiliser or compost.
  • Individuals who feed the birds in public spaces: Individuals who persistently feed the birds are probably the single biggest source of food for pigeons and seagulls. Individuals often have a daily ritual of feeding the birds in their gardens or, more so, in public open spaces; same time and same place every day. The reasons for this type of feeding can be complex, including loneliness and mental illness. Efforts to persuade individuals to stop feeding should be compassionately carried out, and ongoing support may be required.
  • Anti-social Behaviour: When people persistently feed pigeons and gulls, local councils and police are increasingly turning to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014 to issue Public Space Protection Orders or Community Protection Orders.

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