To appreciate and understand pigeons as living sentient creatures instead of as a 'problem', it is helpful to know something of their past. The feral's ancestor, the Rock Dove, lived a difficult life nesting on cliffs or in caves, avoiding ferocious falcons and gulls, foraging on the shore and inland, as well as enduring extreme weather conditions, and this created, over the centuries, a very intelligent and resourceful bird.

Sadly, as early as Roman times, people recognized an opportunity to abuse the Rock Dove and stole them from their natural habitat to be kept in specially designed breeding units. One can still see medieval examples of these cylindrical structures where the baby pigeons were reared for winter meat.

However, when farming practices changed, most of the dovecots were abandoned and many birds escaped. Although semi-domesticated and bred with several plumage variations from the original blue-grey, white rump and two black wing bars, a lot of these were still as adaptable as their coastal cousins. They sought refuge on man-made escarpments, and learned to monopolize on the wasteful habits of humans.

Until more recently they were tolerated. Samuel Pepys mentions that they refused to desert their young during the Great Fire of London, and Victorian feral pigeons were allowed to clean up under the nose-bags of draught horses. But as man became more extravagant with food, the pigeon population has increased.

Human beings are ever blind to their own shortcomings, always preferring to condemn another species for situations directly brought about by indolence or neglect. As a result the pigeon, merely taking advantage, as would we all, of a chance to survive, is persecuted under a law which permits local authorities to reduce their numbers by extreme and violent means.


All methods of culling involve cruelty and are a misuse of funds because all they achieve are a temporary gap asking to be filled by other pigeons moving in from surrounding areas. After a cull, more food is available to those remaining; hence more pigeons are fit to breed and less succumb to infant mortality. With these advantages they can replenish their numbers at an astonishing degree, to again be the scapegoats for inefficiency, and victims of misguided priorities and wasted resources.

A given pigeon population will level off to a density rate that the food availability can sustain. When that point is reached, less robust pairs will not reproduce and natural losses tend to stabilize flock numbers. So basically, if left alone the flock will not grow ad infinitum, but regulate itself without the unnecessary savagery of drugs, falconry, traps and guns.

If their presence is justifiably unwanted, the only sure (and most humane) way to deter feathered opportunists is to reduce the amount of refuse we produce and net off roost sites. As long as mesh is maintained no pigeon should suffer, and the flock will be stronger and more resistant to disease. This solution is cheaper, permanent and does not employ armies of mercenaries who poison the public's mind with ill-informed scare-mongering propaganda merely to ensure an easy salary.

Too many people accept this ridiculous disregard for life and money, because they choose to believe 'experts' who have a vested financial interest in promoting deplorable myths about these birds.

What any honest vet will tell you is that feral pigeons are no more a risk to human health than any other bird or animal species and it is doubtful than any outbreak of ill-health has ever been traced to pigeons. Another common myth is that pigeon's droppings corrode buildings, but these droppings are neither acidic nor alkaline and cannot corrode building materials. But pigeons are a convenient visible target for anyone who would rather pin the blame on them rather than the sulphur dioxide of car exhausts and acid rain.


Contrary to popular notions, pigeons do not carry fleas which bite humans. They play host to certain parasites, but this they have in common with all wild creatures, and not even the most hysterical devotee of hygiene would want every species wiped out because they harbour a few lice. In fact the only real 'crime' pigeons commit is leaving an unsightly mess (biodegradable to a greater degree) in a few corners in our towns and cities, for which they are sentenced to death by a race which has irreparably polluted the whole planet, the oceans and even space itself.

So are we really justified in labelling the pigeon as a destructive element? Another most unpalatable fact concerning their association with man involves members of their large family who have been made extinct. We are all familiar with the image of the Dodo, but how many people realise this gentle flightless islander was actually a pigeon? The Passenger Pigeon was reckoned to be the most numerous bird in the world until this century when the very last one died in a zoo, her fellows having been blown into permanent oblivion by 'sportsmen' glutted on blood.

In all fairness, we owe a debt to pigeons if only as a means of righting a terrible wrong. Before we attach the word 'vermin' to any creature, let us learn to consider ourselves not as the dominant and all-powerful dispenser of malevolence or mercy, but as fellow beings who display the same desire to preserve our existence in a state as near approaching happiness as possible.

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