Covering the News and People of the City of Peoria
January 4-10, 2001
Residents irritated with pigeon problem
Birds eat weed seeds, do not spread disease, experts say
By MARK POLLOCK
Continuing home construction in north Peoria and neighboring Arrowhead Ranch is attracting new residents enticed by free rent and food. Pigeons in many areas are moving in as fast as their human counterparts.
Recent callers to the newspaper's "Speak Out" line are worried about damage and diseases from pigeons.
Arrowhead Lakes resident, Jacque Kottman, recently spent more than $400 for pigeon prevention devices and is worried about the spread of disease. She said her family loves birds, but would like the pigeons removed.
"It's too bad there isn't a way to exterminate the pigeons," she said. "When we run them of our house they only go on to make problems of themselves to our neighbors. The only ones to benefit are the exterminators."
Unfortunately, using poison or lethal means to kill pigeons only makes space for more to take their place, according to Dave Roth, founder and president of the Urban Wildlife Society.
Pigeons do not spread disease and Mr. Roth blames those who make a living killing them for spreading the false rumor.
"There's a stigma perpetuated by pest control companies, who make a lot of money exterminating the birds, that got this whole health issue started," he said. "For many companies, their bread and butter is removal (poisoning), not exclusion. When the job fails and the pigeons return, guess what? They get to come back month after month. It's an endless source of income."
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, the New York City Department of Health, and the Arizona Department of Health all agree that diseases associated with pigeons present little risk to people.
"We have never documented a pigeon to human transmission in the state of Arizona," said Mira J. Leslie, Arizona state public health veterinarian. "Most of the aerosolized bird diseases would be a problem with indoor birds."
Dr. Leslie said good hygiene by those in contact with pigeons, breeders and pet owners, prevents most problems.
Nesting prevention is the only sure way to reduce or eliminate pigeon populations, according to Mr. Roth.
"It's birth control," he said. "When you remove the nesting sites and the breeding areas you have less birds." He added that when pigeons are removed by killing them, new birds arrive from surrounding areas and breed to a higher level due to the a vacuum created.
The use of nylon screens to prevent unwanted pigeon entry and the use of spring wire coils or Slinky toys to deter birds from landing on structures is suggested. Tracks embedded with wires carrying a harmless electrical charge also condition birds to leave. The best bird deterrent is the removal of available food. Dog food is one of the biggest draws for pigeon flocks. Grass seed is another.
Codes to prevent the feeding of pigeons in trouble spots have yet to materialize.
"We've had calls where people were concerned because their neighbors were feeding pigeons," said Lora Isaacs, code enforcement supervisor for the city of Peoria. "But there isn't a code about it."
Homeowners associations trying to relieve pigeon overcrowding have the same problem. Laws prevent penalizing folks feeding pigeons, but HOAs have some resources.
The bird problem Ms. Kottman and other residents complain about was greatest last summer, according to Arrowhead Ranch property manager Tom Richards. He said an allegation that a resident was feeding pigeons resulted in a letter asking them to please "resist" feeding birds, but the HOA had no power to enforce the request.
"We're kind of limited. We don't have any leverage," Mr. Richards said.
One possible option to eliminate bird feeding, according to Mr. Richards, is a clause in home deeds preventing nuisances. If it can be proven that feeding the birds are the cause, the practice must be stopped.
The upside of pigeons' seed craving is weed prevention. For those tired of pulling an endless field of summer weeds, a pigeon's craving for weed seed can out-weigh any perceived nuisance. They also provide nourishment for many birds of prey. The Endangered Peregrine Falcon would not be staging a comeback if not for easy pigeon pickings, according to Urban Wildlife literature.
Mr. Roth hopes with proper education, the unnecessary killing of pigeons will stop. He will continue working to inform the public about exclusion techniques to create an even balance between man and bird
"If poisoning works so well, why are there still so many pigeons. If left alone, the pigeon population would limit itself to whatever the nesting sites will support."
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