Alternatives to Lethal Bird Control
PiCAS bases all of its control systems on over 30 years of experience working in the field of humane and non-lethal bird control. PiCAS offers its client base a real alternative to conventional pest control methods that are dominated by the use of lethal control, either in a stand-alone format or combined with the installation of deterrents and anti-roosting products.
ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT PIGEON CONTROL UPDATE
The use of lethal methods to control bird populations is not only expensive but its use actually compounds and exacerbates the problem for the client. However, it is a highly profitable service for the pest control contractor concerned. Conventional bird control is designed to deal with the problem itself rather than the source of the problem and essentially this is where PiCAS’s approach differs from that of the pest control industry. PiCAS will not only deal with the problem itself but also the impact and source of the problem providing the client with a comprehensive, sustainable and cost-effective control system. Due to its independent stance, and because PiCAS does not sell any products or services other than professional consultancy services, all advice provided is in the best interests of the client.
Scientific research* has now confirmed what the pest control industry has always known, that killing birds as a method of control acts to increase population size, not reduce it. Scientific research carried out in Switzerland by the University of Basel, between 1988 and 1992, clearly demonstrates that killing pigeons as a control option is counter-productive. The research programme also found that without having the ability to regulate the volume of food provided to pigeon populations other controls such as the installation of deterrents were considerably less effective. Where a reduction of flock size is the goal, a permanent reduction of available food within any given area is essential, certainly in terms of the impact on individual properties.
During a census in 1963 the City of Basel was found to have a pigeon population of 20,000 birds and in the following 24 years the city council used every means at their disposal to reduce the population, including killing over 100,000 pigeons by means of cage-trapping and shooting. In 1988, a pigeon head count revealed that Basel’s wild pigeon population was nearer 30,000 pigeons, an increase of 33% over and above the figure of 20,000 birds counted in the 1963 census. This dramatic increment in flock size confirmed that the city council’s lethal control policy, operated between 1963 and 1985, had not only been totally ineffective but had actually resulted in an increase in pigeon flock size of nearly one third. As a result, the city council realised that the problem had to be tackled at source. The source of the problem in Basel was the persistent feeding of the birds by residents in the city combined with the excessive use of lethal controls.
Between 1988 and 1990 the City of Basel introduced a massive public information campaign to educate the public about pigeons and the relationship between feeding and resultant overpopulation. Alongside the public education campaign the city council asked the University of Basel to carry out a scientific study to find a solution to the problem of the overpopulation of pigeons in the city. This well-documented research concluded that killing pigeons had no effect on reducing pigeon flock size and in most cases resulted in an increase in pigeon numbers. Based on the view that lethal control could not reduce population size the research team looked at non-conventional and quite diverse methods of overcoming the problem. The connection had already been made between feeding and overpopulation, so if food could be restricted and if pigeons could be stopped from breeding (or if the incidence of breeding could be reduced) numbers would reduce accordingly. The idea of providing artificial breeding facilities where eggs could be removed and replaced with dummy eggs was put into practice. This method of control was pioneered by the PiCAS Group in the 1970’s.
The research team provided 9 designated feeding areas where the public could legitimately feed the city’s pigeons and adjacent to these they built well-kept and controlled pigeon lofts where the city’s pigeons were encouraged to roost and breed. These lofts were visited and cleaned on a weekly basis and any eggs that had been laid in the preceding week were removed. During the 4-year research period over 1,200 eggs each year were removed and replaced with dummy eggs. Over a 50-month period this had the effect of reducing the pigeon population in these test areas by a staggering 50%. Not only were pigeon numbers halved, but large quantities of pigeon excrement were removed from the lofts. In 1992 alone 1,050kg of excrement was removed from the lofts, excrement that would otherwise have contributed to the soiling of buildings in the city.
Although it was the Swiss research that finally provided scientific proof and evidence that killing pigeons as a method of control had the effect of increasing flock size, it is Germany, not Switzerland that is now setting the example by introducing holistic and non-lethal pigeon control programmes based on the PiCAS model. The German city of Augsburg voted to improve and expand its humane pigeon control programme by the creation of pigeon lofts in converted roof voids in buildings within the city. In just one year, ending June 2003, the city council removed 1,200 eggs from 7 pigeon lofts in converted roof voids. The city council also closed down and excluded pigeons from 6 of the 7 derelict building sites within the city limits, thereby moving flocks into less sensitive areas of the city where their numbers could be controlled by egg removal/replacement. This staggering achievement was accomplished without the use of lethal controls.
The German cities of Nurnberg, Munich and Hamburg are now considering this type of non-lethal programme to reduce the size of their burgeoning pigeon flocks. Interestingly, the Ford Motor Company’s car plant in Cologne also decided to implement a humane and non-lethal pigeon control programme in an attempt to reduce pigeon numbers in sensitive areas of the site. The plant manager confirmed that the company had spent vast sums of money on conventional pigeon control options (mainly lethal controls) to control and reduce pigeon numbers on the site but these controls had completely failed to resolve their problems. The plant set up a loft-based system with the help of volunteer groups in the area and those groups now service the lofts on behalf of Ford. Sadly this type of lateral thinking is not mirrored in the UK where many companies continue to use ineffective lethal measures on the advice of their pest control contractors.
The use of dovecotes and designated feeding areas in public places combined with the use of pigeon lofts sited on buildings has helped local authorities and sites such as Nottingham City Hospital to concentrate and control pigeon numbers in a humane but effective manner. These control regimes are 100% non-lethal and yet they are both sustainable and publicly acceptable. Non-lethal control systems are just as valid, and just as effective, for individual buildings as they are for their area-wide and site-wide equivalents. Clearly, where an individual property is concerned it is important to install an optimum control system that will resolve bird-related problems both effectively, cost-effectively and in a manner that is sustainable.
A vast majority of the controls that are recommended to individual property owners by pest control contractors involve the use of lethal control and, as previously discussed, this control option will simply entrench existing problems. It is therefore critically important, as it is with area-wide controls, not only to identify the source of the problem but also to understand why the species in question is using the property and for what purpose. It may be for the purpose of overnight roosting and nesting or it may be as a daytime perch in order to exploit a food source. Unlike commercial pest control contractors, PiCAS will carry out an in-depth survey of the building or site in question and the surrounding area in order to better understand why the property is being targeted by the species concerned. Once all the information is collated and provided to the client in the form of a consultancy report the client will have a clear view of the problem from every available perspective, as well as specific and independent advice regarding how best to resolve the problem.
Independent advice should always be sought from a company that has no interest in selling bird control products or installation services when attempting to deal with a bird-related problem. Pest control services are extremely expensive, commonly miss-sold and rarely offered with guarantees of any description. There are numerous non-lethal control options available to property owners, site managers and local authorities that offer complete protection providing that the right guidance and advice is sought. In a vast majority of cases individual buildings can be comprehensively protected simply by using anti-roosting products alone and where site-wide controls are required deterrents can be complimented by loft-based systems. Whatever the requirement there is a non-lethal, humane and effective bird control system available and PiCAS will guide each and every client through the complex and often demanding process of choosing the right product or system to suit their needs.
Case Study 1
A good example of how a non-lethal and holistic strategy can resolve a deeply entrenched pigeon-related problem is the success of the control system provided by Nottingham City Hospital based on advice from PiCAS.
PiCAS was invited to meet with Environmental Services Manager, Clive Young of Nottingham City Hospital’s Environmental Services Division, in May 2000 to offer advice on an effective pigeon control strategy for this extensive hospital site. Prior to involving PiCAS the hospital had been advised, by its pest control contractor, to undertake an extensive culling operation on the site to reduce an estimated 1,200 resident pigeons. This culling operation was suspended almost immediately as a result of extremely negative feedback from staff on the site and complaints from animal welfare groups together with bad publicity in the local media. PiCAS surveyed the site with staff from the Environmental Services Division and made a number of recommendations.
The following statement was made by the Environmental Services Department of Nottingham City Hospital in March 2001:
Since contact has been made with PiCAS and a visit made by Guy Merchant (Director of PiCAS), several new schemes have been in progress. Firstly, lethal culling has been suspended indefinitely. We have now employed an on-site Pest Controller, Mr. Martyn Belcher to control the pigeon population.
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Having taken advice from PiCAS, and from the catalogues recommended, Martyn has pigeon proofed many areas, at a greatly reduced cost, as opposed to using private contractors.
Martyn has developed the concept of pigeon coups by using old staff single lockers turned on their side and compartmentalised them into nest boxes. The sites chosen are large bird populated flat roofs on 3 buildings in the Trust.
Martyn leaves food, water and nest materials to encourage the birds to nest, then removes the eggs. He has also mapped out the nest sites on the Trust and visits these areas daily to collect eggs. Obviously if eggs are hatched young are left alone to fledge.
The impact on the Trust has been dramatic. In less than a year, the bird population has reduced by an estimated 50%. The cost of cleaning fouling has also reduced significantly.
Future plans include the roll-out of more coup areas, which have no cost or maintenance as we are recycling old lockers. We are, however, having a wooden coup made by our Estates Department, which will be near our wildlife corridor. Here again, the eggs will be collected.
This approach is both user friendly and non-lethal. We will continue to develop our strategy and monitor the effectiveness of the scheme. A further report will be sent to PiCAS in the Autumn.
Environmental Services Manager
As a result of their forward-thinking and lateral approach to pigeon control, Nottingham City Hospital was awarded the RSPCA Best Practices Award (2003) for adopting a humane and non-lethal strategy based on PiCAS recommendations. Since the original recommendations were made, and the hospital embarked on the PiCAS recommended pigeon control programme, the hospital’s resident pigeon population has decreased dramatically. In 2005 the hospital confirmed that the population was down to 65 birds and this is from a start figure of 1,200. These statistics prove beyond any doubt that PiCAS’s area-wide approach is as effective with sites such as Nottingham City Hospital as it is with town and city-wide control systems operated by Local Authorities and Town and City Centre Management Agencies.
The installation of anti-roosting products provided in sensitive and well-used areas of the site forced a majority of the flock to leave the site altogether and the provision of artificial breeding facilities reduced breeding amongst those birds that remained.
Case Study 2
In 2001 PiCAS was invited to meet with Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC) to advise them on humane and effective pigeon management in Camberley Town Centre. The meeting was also attended by a representative of a group known as Camberley and District Animal Welfare Group (CADAWG) who had been instrumental in setting up the meeting. The Council was keen to investigate non-lethal methods of reducing pigeon flock size throughout the area and was prepared to work in partnership with both PiCAS and CADAWG to achieve their goal.
PiCAS surveyed the town centre of Camberley to establish the source of the problem in order to provide SHBC with an effective, humane and cost-effective control programme. The source of pigeon-related problems in Camberley was found to be deliberate and persistent feeding of town centre flocks by the general public.
During the course of the survey PiCAS identified one area at roof height where a pigeon loft could be sited, adjacent to one of the worst affected areas. The proposed site was a flat roof area above the town’s shopping centre. The purpose of a pigeon loft provided in this area of the town centre, close to the food source, would be to offer alternative roosting facilities for the town centre pigeon flock once they had been excluded from their existing roosts by the installation of deterrents. As with a majority of pigeon-related problems in urban areas, the soiling of buildings in Camberley town centre was clearly the main issue for property owners.
A loft-based system was recommended to SHBC as an optimum means of reducing and relocating Camberley’s pigeon flock into a facility that would be capable of housing the birds in good clean conditions, thereby reducing any potential for health-related problems within the flock. The loft facility would also allow CADAWG, who had agreed to service the loft on a voluntary basis on behalf of SHBC, to control flock size by the removal and replacement of eggs, as laid. Dummy eggs would be substituted for real eggs once a week so as to ensure that no distress was caused to the resident pigeons. A publicity campaign was also recommended to SHBC to get the message across to persistent and deliberate pigeon feeders that their compliance was required in order to reduce the volume of food available to town centre flocks. The combination of breeding controls alongside a reduction of available food would be the most effective method of reducing flock size in a humane and structured manner.
In 2003 SHBC and CADAWG, in liaison with the management of the town’s shopping centre, provided a large dedicated pigeon loft. The loft was fitted out with breeding compartments and was visited once a week by representatives of CADAWG. Any sick or injured pigeons were removed to an animal hospital to be rehabilitated prior to release, and eggs were removed as laid and replaced with dummy eggs.
Three years later, in 2006, SHBC announced that the pigeon loft had been a huge success in relation to managing pigeon flock size in Camberley. SHBC also confirmed that annual pigeon counts had revealed that flock size had stabilised at an acceptable level and pigeon-related problems, such as soiling in sensitive areas, had reduced dramatically throughout the town centre. This is an excellent working example of how councils can and should work in partnership with retailers, pigeon feeders and local groups such as CADAWG to achieve the type of success experienced by SHBC.
The programme provided in Camberley only cost a few hundred pounds of public money and achieved what many of SHBC’s neighbouring councils have failed to achieve by spending vast sums of public money on costly and wholly ineffective culling operations. As with many German cities, providing a pigeon control system based on the PiCAS model will always result in an effective, humane and cost-effective means of controlling pigeon flock size without the need to resort to outdated and ineffective culling operations.
Below is a statement from Surrey Heath Borough Council which appeared in their in-house magazine in 2006:
* Regulation of the street pigeon in Basel by Daniel Haag-Wackernagel, 1992
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