Are Pigeons "Flying Rats"?

London has banned Bernar Rayner from peddling his pigeon feed in Trafalgar Square. After a lengthy battle, he acceded to being bought out.

I’m ambivalent on the issue of feeding pigeons. I’m a birder and an animal lover, but they sure do create an unhealthy mess. It ain’t their fault they don’t have a rectum, but faultless or not they do create an unsanitary condition. On the other hand, I’ve run through many a pile of dog poo that inconsiderate dog owners leave. That’s also unhealthy. There are laws against that, but rarely enforced. I can run over pigeonshit with no problem. Hell, I play on tennis courts with all kinds of bird droppings. But it seems everywhere I run there’s dogshit lying around: on the grass, roads, and sidewalks. Personally, I think any dog owner who leaves that crap around should be summarily shot. (Heck with any arrest. You never know when they may make it a federal offense and a president pardons him.)

Enough of my ramblind and digression. This debate posting is about feeding pigeons, pro or con?

Largely con. I don’t think it is usually a huge health issue. But centralized feeding does tend to create a centralized mess - usually in a very public area. Dispersed messes are certainly preferrable.

Besides, pigeons don’t need the help. They do just fine on their own. A very tough and fairly adaptable species of bird ( an admirable beast really - And if you clean them up and look at them objectively, they’re actually rather pretty - I’m fond of the larger, but somewhat similar looking, native Band-Tailed Pigeons you find in Oak woodlands here in CA ).


Damn straight, I can barely walk to the end of my road without stepping into a slimy, smelly pile of shit. It’s obscene. Also they should leave the pigeons alone. They’re as integral a part of Trafalgar square as Lord Nelson is.

Apart from that I am also ambivalent.

Today’s newspaper said that a goodly % of them will die if they are not continued to be fed. The problem is that they have got used to humans feeding them and many will not be able to adapt.

They are cute as all birds are. We have now, here in SC, the ring-necked Eurasion pigeon, which has somehow gotten here, along with the mourning dove and another type of dove, whose name I momentarily cannot remember and which I have never seen. They say that it is now rare. Dammit! I wish I could remember the name. it looks very similar to the mourning but is half the size. We’ve also had a dove from Florida, which also is white (as the Eurasian) and a ring-neck, and whose name I also cannot recall now. Must be Alzheimer’s. Don’t have the damn bird book handy here at work.

The small dove is the ground dove and I think the Fla. one is called a ring-necked dove (appropriaely), but I’m not sure, in case any one cares.

I’m not crazy about the birds myself. I live in a small “city”. There aren’t a lot of pidgies yet but they multiply pretty quickly I’m told. We have a large amount of song birds that live and nest regularily in my neighborhood. My neighbor says that as the pidgeons begin to multiply the native song birds leave. He used to shoot them with a pellet gun. (Illegal I’m sure.) And he and another neighbor trap and kill squirrels too. (Illegal too, I’d bet.)

Anyway I don’t like them because I’ve seen the damage they do with their big nests and big bodies. They’ll find a small chink in the siding around the soffet of your house, crawl in and make their nests. Then the next thing you know they’re running around in your soffets and they start to fall down. (I don’t have any enclosed soffets myself.) The house across the street was infested with them last year. They had to replace the siding around the soffets and found 10 nests. A couple with big old fat babies sitting on them.

None of us mind the song birds. I’ve always loved birds. Just not crazy about the pidgeons. They crap bigger, and they eat more. I guess if they were the only birds around it would be fine, I’d just hate to see the other birds leave. I love my cardinals, robins, little red breasted finches and the others that nest in my yard every year. However I don’t miss the blue jays. Haven’t seen one since we moved to the city. They’re some nasty tempered birds and other birds don’t like them much either.


Yeah, blue jays are very aggressive and they’ll chase the songbirds and finches away. (The red-breasted finch is either a house finch or a purple finch, I guess.) They’re almost as bad as squirrels, which are impossible to keep off feeders. Baffles don’t baffle them. They’re smart little rodents, and cute. Chipmunks are cuter and they don’t climb. They’re just eat the seeds that fall.

Incidentally, the Eurasian dove is the Eurasian collared- dove and the Fla. one is the ringed turtle-dove.

Pigeons, “flying rats”?
I think you’re thinking of bats.
Pigeons are more like flying raptor-like dinosaurs.

That’s what the article says the Germans call them (according to a German whose name I don’t recall). I don’t think it’s appropriate either.

I love birds, I love birdwatching, but I do have a thing against urban pigeons.

Just something about the mess they make on buildings, somehow it’s unnatural for a bird to WANT to be in this environment.

Oh, and also that damn annoying hooting they make outside my window at 6 am. Damn, I hate that.

I tend to take a dim view of non-native species. (Though my understanding is that pigeons are actually indigenous to the UK, the Dover cliffs, to be specific.)


The above does not say that pigeons displace native species, though, which is actually my chief concern. Other web sites imply this, although I suspect that displacement has never actually been documented, due to the pigeon’s predominantly urban habitat:

The one good thing I have to say about pigeons is that they provide a convenient food source for the peregrines that fly outside my office window. Saw one get hit once, and it looked like the damn thing exploded. Very impressive. Raptors as so cool.

Many pigeons in large UK cities have badly deformed feet, some are so bad all that is left is a stump.

This was a mystery up to a couple of years ago but it turns out that all the poo on their roosting sites harbours a mite which causes an infection. The effect appears a little like leprosy.

Where their droppings accumulate there is a serious health hazard and clearing up is a costly business.Their dropping are acidic and cause damage to stonework, paintwork gutterings etc.

They die in air-con towers and pollute the water, they carry mites, fleas, ticks, lice and other parasites.

They carry psitticosis which can cause respiratory problems in humans, histoplasmosis, cryptomoccossis, salmonellosis, orinthosis. Their droppings can cause fungal spores to be spread and lead to allergies.I havevn’t even begun to cover the range of viral infections they carry, some latent and just waiting for the immune system of the bird to be compromised.

Many of the diseases and parasites they carry are associated with their high density living.

On top of all this they act as a reservoir of infection to other avian species, plus when they are weakened they become vulnerable to a whole other range of infectious diseases(just as humans do) which can affect us and other animals.

Pidgeon racers will kill any bird that has taken a detour ie spent some time living wild before returning partly because of the risk of disease that it might have picked up.

Banning the selling of birdseed in Trafalgar Square is the first step in a long-term plan to convert the Square from the wasteland which it is now to somewhere where people might actually want to go and linger for a little while (pace the Tartan Army).

The second stage will involve pedestrianising some or all of the surrounding roads, probably starting with the area between the Square and the National Gallery.

Finally, the plan is to have a programme of events, including open-air concerts and so on. There are also proposals to have open-air cafes, in which case the pigeons would be a serious health hazard.

To add to the list of infectious diseases that casdave gave, salmonella is endemic in the London pigeon population.