In modern life the word pest is not usually synonymous with birds. But if they are causing damage to the roof of your house or the paintwork of your car, you might want to make an exception. Pigeons are by far the birds we most often associate with pests in our cities.
The pigeon is a common bird throughout the UK, and they have little fear of people. The absence or scarcity of natural predators has accustomed pigeons to using offices, commercial premises, houses and any other building as a place to roost and nest.
There is every reason to want to get rid of the pigeons that frequent your home or business. But doing it on your own is not easy. Their instincts make them stick to the places where they nest. And they can have up to six broods a year, depending on the weather.
You may be considering removing pigeon nests. This will reduce their presence in your surroundings and also reduce the problems they cause on your property and property. If you are still unsure, you can read on.
Why remove pigeon nests?
Pigeons are the most common type of bird in cities and cause problems in all kinds of buildings, from statues to airports. There are excellent reasons for wanting to get rid of pigeons and their nests.
Pigeon droppings are highly corrosive, containing large amounts of uric acid. Limestone and sandstone are particularly susceptible to damage. Worse still, its corrosive effects can continue even after removal.
It is essential to keep pigeons away from equipment installed on roofs. Their feathers and debris can damage them, as can ventilation and air-conditioning equipment. These roofs are also their favourite nesting sites.
Finally, micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, and fungi) found in pigeon waste can pose a health risk. Contact with them, or accidental inhalation, can lead to diseases such as psittacosis, histoplasmosis, and cryptococcosis.
Not all nests can be removed
In the UK it is illegal to remove or disturb a wild bird’s nest when it is nesting, whether the nest contains eggs or live chicks, or even if the nest is still under construction. This is in accordance with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Act covers not only sparrows, starlings and gulls, but also feral birds such as pigeons. Even moving a nest can cause the parent pigeons to abandon the nest, resulting in the young dying of starvation or thirst.
Legal liability for destroying or disturbing a nest may lie with the property owner, even if a pest control company did it.
Wait until the chicks have left the nest before removing them, but be quick as pigeons can produce eggs a few days later. And this leads our interest to learn more about the life cycle of pigeons.
Life cycle of pigeons
The pigeons we commonly see in cities are varieties of domestic pigeons (Columba livia domestica). They are the offspring of feral pigeons, which escaped from captivity.
The life expectancy of a pigeon ranges from 4 to 6 years in the wild. In captivity, pigeons have been recorded as living longer than 15 years. The main causes of mortality in the wild are predators and persecution by humans.
They reach sexual maturity at 6 months and mate for life with a single partner. They breed all year round if conditions are favourable, with peak breeding periods in spring and autumn.
In the wild they prefer coastal cliffs and other elevated nesting sites. This is why feral populations in urban areas seek to build their nests on or inside buildings.
The nesting habits of pigeons are unique. Pigeons build flimsy nests, but often reuse the same site repeatedly, even building a new nest on top of the old one.
The nest is saucer-shaped and made of stems and leaves. But as the pigeons make no attempt to remove the droppings of their chicks, the nest becomes a sturdy mound of mud that grows larger over time.
The male flies to fetch materials for the construction of the nest and places them in front of his mate. The female, who remains at the nest site, accepts or rejects the material brought by the male and places it under her.
Incubation of the eggs
About 10 days after mating the female lays 1 to 2 eggs, although exceptionally they may lay up to 4 eggs at a time. Both mother and father take turns incubating the eggs and foraging for food.
The female pigeon usually sits on the eggs from late afternoon, during the night and until mid-morning. The male takes a shift from mid-morning to mid-afternoon before the female returns to take over. Eggs hatch after 15-20 days of incubation.
Hatching and rearing
On the day the young pigeons hatch, the female remains in the nest throughout the day. Unlike many bird species, the young live a long time in the nest.
When they are ready to leave the nest, the young pigeons look very much like adult pigeons. This is why people do not usually see baby pigeons. Most baby pigeons will become independent 4 to 6 weeks after hatching.
As they do not need to look for a mate, pigeons can start the breeding process immediately after the young leave the nest. It is therefore important to remove the nests as quickly as possible or to do so outside their breeding season.
If pigeon nests are causing damage to your property, or preventing the use of any space on your property, you should contact professionals. They will find the most effective solution to remove the nests and prevent further nesting.