March 2, 2015 — A READER ASKS: I live in a midsize co-op in Brooklyn. We have a huge pigeon problem. There are pigeon droppings everywhere. It's not just unsightly; there's so much of it now that I'm concerned about it becoming a health hazard. As far as anyone can tell, nobody in the building seems to be feeding them — we do have a policy in place against doing so. But is there anything the building can do to fix this problem and make the pigeons go away?
HABITAT ANSWERS: Pigeons find window ledges, rooftops, bridges, and warehouses to be ideal substitutes for the natural ledges in cliff sides that they have always used as roosting, nesting and sheltering sites. The good news is that there are some simple things that co-ops and condos can do to keep birds from their buildings — and the best part is that they are humane.
Stop Feeding the Pigeons
It's good that nobody in your building seems to be feeding the pigeons, but that doesn't mean that the building is not unintentionally doing so. Pigeons are going to hang around places where they can help themselves to discarded food and even crumbs. Keep the sidewalk clean and outdoor garbage tidy. Cleaning regularly will help discourage pigeons from gathering and setting up nests in your building.
Prevent Roosting and Nesting
Pigeons look for flat surfaces for roosting and nesting, so the building has to take steps to make flat surfaces unavailable to them. With the correct application of the right product, roosting structures can be rendered virtually pigeon-free. There are a variety of devices that can be used to change flat nesting spots into inaccessible spaces and prevent pigeons from roosting in areas where they’re not wanted.
The Humane Society recommends the following products, all of which can be ordered from birdbarrier.com or 800-NO-BIRDS.com:
Netting is probably your building's best bet — it's not only humane and effective but also a lot more cost effective.
Never use polybutylene gel, adds the Humane Society. Sticky gel repellents made from polybutene can harm all birds and any animal that comes in contact with it. The HSUS strongly recommends that these dangerous repellents be avoided at all costs. The feathers of any bird that comes into contact with the dense, sticky gel will become damaged, interfering with their ability to fly and to stay water-proofed. These gel repellents are not selective. Other birds are likely to land on the gel, get stuck, and die. The polybutene gels are particularly harmful to smaller species.
As year-round nesters, a pair of pigeons can raise a dozen or more young each year. If pigeons have plenty of food and space, their numbers can quickly increase. Fortunately, a bird contraceptive is available that limits growth of pigeon flocks. Ovocontrol bird food is "birth control" for pigeons. Innolytics, LLC
Known as OvoControl, pigeon contraception comes in the form of a kibble-type food, which causes birds that eat it regularly to lay eggs that fail to develop. Combined with exclusion and other humane measures to discourage roosting and nesting, OvoControl effectively reduces hatching rates in pigeons, thereby limiting flock sizes and diminishing problems associated with large numbers of pigeons.
Talk to Your Property Manager
Whatever you do, and regardless of how frustrating the problem, do not resort to poisoning them. In New York, it's illegal to kill pigeons. Your property manager can suggest viable options for your building and then present those to the board for a final decision. Your board should be involved in addressing any bird-related problems, because the solution will usually affect the building’s exterior.
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