Columba Livia Gmelin

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Identification and Life Cycle

The pigeon or “rock dove” (Columba livia Gmelin), is a common, serious urban bird pest. They are not only a great nuisance, but can transmit diseases, contaminate foods and cause damage to structures.

The pigeon’s body color can vary from gray to white, tan and black. It has two black bars on the secondary wing feathers, a broad black band on the tail and red feet.

Nesting sites are frequently located in protected areas up high on structures. A pigeon’s nest is different than other bird nests. It consists of twigs, sticks, and grasses clumped together to form a platform. A pigeon reuses its nest many times, and does not remove its feces the way many birds do. Over time, the nest grows into a sturdy mound, sometimes including unhatched eggs and deseased nestlings.

Bird mites will live on birds and in their nests until the host (food source) dies or abandons the nest. Up to thousands of mites will then migrate to find a new food source. A mite’s bite on a human can be painful, and cause itching and dermatitis. It is sometimes described as a sensation of “crawling” on the skin, or to some people there can be no skin irritation at all.

Pigeons have one mate at a time, and the male cares and guards the female and the nest. Eight to twelve days after mating, the female lays one or two eggs. The eggs hatch about eighteen day later. After, the young feed on a secreted substance called “pigeon milk”. The young birds then leave the nest when they are four to six years of age. The female will lay more eggs, typically in the spring and fall months. The average life of a wild pigeon is 15 years or longer.

Habits and Damage

Pigeons often gather in flocks, and are seen in parks feeding on foods provided by people. In urban areas, pigeons nest on the roof of buildings, window ledges, stairwells and bridges. In rural areas, they inhabit farmyards, livestock facilities, feed mills and barns. An adult pigeon consumes about a pound of food per week, and must have water daily to survive.

Pigeons are a problem in urban areas because they frequently deposit their manure on sidewalks, buildings, park benches and automobiles. Large amounts of droppings cause premature rusting and corrosion of structures and automobiles. Their nests on top of buildings can clog gutters and rainspouts and may provide a home for mites when nest are abandoned.

Pigeons can also harbor disease organisms that may affect people, pets and domesticated animals. Possible diseases pigeons may carry is Histoplasmosis, Ornithosis, Salmonellosis, and viruses such as the West Nile virus.

Common Signs Of Pigeon Activity

  1. Visual Sightings. Pigeons tend to flock in small groups of around twenty to thirty birds.
  2. Nests. Pigeons find window ledges, rooftops, bridges & warehouses to roost & nest upon.
  3. Droppings. They can leave their droppings on sidewalks, rooftops, on park benches & cars. A single pigeon can produce up to 25 pounds, annually.

Prevention and Management

The best strategy for controlling pigeons is prevention. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can identify and help maintain a pigeon-free environment.

The following steps can be taken to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with pigeons.

Inspection. A thorough inspection can determine the identification of the pest and its extent of damage.

Exclusion. Modify potential roosting & nesting areas to make it a less suitable habitat.

Trapping (non-chemical). This is an effective method of control and is most successful in spring & fall.

The following steps can be taken to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with pigeons.

  • Make roosting & nesting areas unavailable to them. Block areas such as openings to lofts, steeples, vents, and eaves.
  • Discourage people from feeding pigeons in public areas, and near commercial buildings.
  • Eliminate pools of standing water.
  • Attach wood or metal sheathing at a 45-60 degree angle over window ledges & other flat surfaces to keep pigeons from landing.
  • Install “bird wires” to keep pigeons off ledges, railings, awnings and rooftops.
  • Use netting to keep pigeons out of large areas.
  • Pigeons can be controlled by capturing them in traps placed near their roosting or feeding sites.

Serving Westchester, Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster and Orange Counties.

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