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Pigeons (Rock doves)

Chris Goodwin

The Pigeon or Rock Dove is extremely common in urban areas of the United States. The coloration on pigeons varies widely, the most common being gray with a white rump, two black bars on each wing, a broad black band on the tail and red feet. Examples of all white or all black birds are commonly seen as well as every shade in between. They average 13 oz. in weight and are about 11 inches in length. The common pigeon was derived from the European Rock Dove and was introduced to this country as a domestic bird. Many escaped and formed colonies.


Pigeons roost and nest on building ledges and trim, eaves, rooftops, in steeples, attics, etc. Nests are made of sticks, twigs and grasses bunched into a loose platform. Pigeons are monogamous. Eight to 12 days after mating, females lay 2 eggs which hatch after 18 days. Males guard and care for the female and nest. The young mature and leave the nest 4 to 6 weeks after they hatch and more eggs are laid before the first young leave the nest. Breeding occurs during all seasons but mainly in spring and fall. Pigeons commonly live up to 15 years, but in more urban areas they tend to live only 3-4 years.

Damage caused

Pigeons droppings accumulate below roost sites and deface buildings. Cleaning the stains is costly and large accumulations of droppings can kill plants and cause an unpleasant odor. Around grain holding and processing facilities pigeons can contaminate large amounts of grain meant for humans and livestock. Pigeons may carry and spread diseases to which humans are susceptible. They are known to carry pigeon ornithosis, encephalitis, Newcastle disease, toxoplasmosis, salmonella, and several other less common diseases. Pigeons may also carry several different types of ectoparasites, such as mites, fleas and ticks. Many of these parasites will not only infect pigeons but also humans. Pigeon droppings may also contain several different types of fungi that can effect humans as well.

Damage control


Porcupine wires
Illus: Prevention & Control of Wildlife Damage

To reduce pigeon numbers, block access to roosting areas. Cover openings to lofts, steeples, vents, and eaves with wood, metal, glass, masonry, a 3/4 inch rust-proof wire mesh, or a plastic or nylon form of wire mesh. Discourage roosting on ledges by changing the slope of the roost. A ledge with a slope of 45° or more is unattractive to pigeons. Porcupine wires are a long term method of discouraging pigeon roosting. The wire consists of long strips of metal with many sharp protruding spikes. These can be placed on a roost to drive away the pigeons. Various electronic devices can also be used to keep pigeons off roosts. One system usually consist of an electrically charged floor that shocks the birds when they land. Others include alarm calls, flashing lights, etc.

Another method commonly used for repelling pigeons is frightening them. However, consistency is extremely important in the success of this method. Loud noises, high frequency sound, and streams of water are all used. These methods must be used often and at different times of the day in order to prevent the birds from adjusting to the devices.

A bob-type trap
Illus: Prevention & Control of Wildlife Damage

Trapping is an effective but often massive and expensive option in controlling pigeons. The traps that are used are quite large and somewhat difficult to construct. A decision must be made in advance to determine what to do with the birds once they are trapped. Consult the local Department of Natural Resources office for more disposal information.

The use of poisons for the control of pigeons is restricted to licensed control agents. Contact your local health department for more information.

Courtsal, Fred R. 1983. Pigeons (Rock Doves). Pp. E35-E41 in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (Robert M. Timm, Ed.) Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Resources Committee and Nebraska Cooperative Extension Service.


Revised 2000

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