A constant presence
At Wildwoods pigeons are constant companions, seeming to need rescuing all year long. As I write this we have several pigeons ranging in age from nestling to adult and most of them are with us as a result of human ignorance or cruelty. Over the past few months we’ve had pigeons with bullet holes come to us, oil-covered pigeons, poisoned pigeons, and baby pigeons that had been thrown off roofs.
Of course, for every story of a pigeon being treated badly, there is a story of people going out of their way to help these creatures. We rely on the public to bring us animals in need and every pigeon in our care was brought to us by a compassionate person who didn’t want the bird to suffer. We (and the pigeons) are so grateful for those individuals!
Pigeons were the first birds to be domesticated 5,000 years ago, with images of them starting to show up around 4500 B.C. Many religions throughout the world historically regarded pigeons as birds of peace. They can see more colors than humans, can be trained do math at the same level as other non-human primates, they are monogamous and both male and female take part in caring for their young.
During World War II, one famous pigeon, G.I. Joe, flew 20 miles in 20 minutes to deliver a message that saved a thousand British Soldiers. Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon used by the U.S. in World War I, was shot twice and survived long enough to deliver a message that saved the lives of 194 soldiers that had been cut off from other American forces. Pigeons are truly courageous and loyal creatures.
One primary concern for people, when it comes to pigeons, is their poo. Where there are pigeons, there is pigeon guano and, just like any excrement that is not cleaned up, can be a transmitter for disease. However, pigeon poop makes excellent fertilizer and observing simple, proper hygiene will prevent diseases from being transmitted to people.
Pigeons are found anywhere people are and it’s estimated that there are 400 million pigeons worldwide, with higher concentrations in urban areas. Pigeons mate for life and can reproduce up to 8 times a year, with two eggs each time. The sheer number of pigeons that can be found in one place is reason enough for people to treat them as pests, however humans play a large part in their reproductive prolificacy. When food is abundant, pigeons reproduce more. If humans stopped feeding pigeons, directly and indirectly, the population would naturally decrease. It’s as simple as picking up food that’s been accidentally dropped, not feeding pigeons in parks, not littering, and generally keeping the outdoors free of our garbage – something we should be doing anyway.
In our experience, most of the time when there is a nuisance animal causing problems for humans, it’s the humans that created the issue in the first place. We don’t clean up after ourselves when we eat outside and we don’t secure our garbage bins, providing a veritable smorgasbord for pigeons, rats and other scavengers, all the while blaming the animal for going after the easy meal.
I once very much disliked pigeons. Squirrels too, but one season of taking care of them at Wildwoods and I realized that each of these animals has a right to live happily and healthily, just the same as we do. I don’t chase squirrels away from my bird feeders any more; they are just so much fun to watch! Birds just sit there and eat but squirrels put on a gymnastics show. I used to get mad that someone in my neighborhood was feeding pigeons and had habituated them. They would fly down and try to land on my shoulder and beg for food while I sat on my deck. The nerve! I got over it and while I don’t get those visitors at my house any more, I wouldn’t even dream of running away from them or turning violent to get rid of them.
What it all boils down to
We need to be responsible for the world we create, and recognize that we are the ones making it easy for nature to annoy us. Pigeons are intelligent, kind, loyal birds that we have demoted from being creatures representing peace, to those that we consider pests. If there are pigeons you don’t want on your property, we recommend first limiting their food supply. Make sure crumbs, seeds, trash and other food sources are cleaned up and secured. They won’t stay where there is no food. If that doesn’t work, hire a humane animal control company, like Stone River Wildlife Control in Cloquet MN, to live-trap and relocate (making sure there are no babies or juveniles that you could be separating from the parents).
Pigeons are not our enemy, we are theirs. Let’s try to be better.