Question: We have an aggravating problem with pigeons. They have managed to invade the eaves and roof of our two-story home. The birds rest on the top tiles and leave droppings on the first-story tiles. They go from house to house in our neighborhood with no particular pattern. They only scare temporarily and are very intelligent. How do we get rid of them?
--K.M., Rancho Cucamonga
Answer: Here's the poop on pigeons. They carry and transmit diseases such as encephalitis, salmonella and histoplasmosis, they're loaded with ectoparasites like fleas, ticks and mites, and their ability to nest, well, without a nest, makes them tops on the list of nuisance birds.
Pigeons have a strong homing instinct and, like most of us, a regular daily routine, so what seems to be random movement is actually quite ordered. And because they don't migrate, and do breed year-round, your only expectation should be that the problem will multiply.
You can trap, poison, even shoot pigeons where local ordinances allow it, but these measures won't keep more birds from settling in, and nontarget birds like doves may be affected. Your best bet is to make their roosting and nesting areas unreachable or unappealing.
Unfortunately, you're looking at a big effort. To keep them out of the eaves, net off the area. Install netting at a 45-degree to a 60-degree angle from the outer edge of the eaves. Pull the net taut so the birds can't get under.
If netting sounds too cumbersome, try screening off the eaves, dormers and other protected areas with simple hardware cloth. The advantage of netting is that it's cheaper and less visible than wire; the disadvantage is that it won't last as long.
Cover all ledges, rafters and windowsills the pigeons are perching on with bird spikes, which are lightweight aluminum wires that keep the birds from landing but won't hurt them. The spikes can be anchored with glue, clips or nails. Wider ledges may require a double row of bird spikes.
Pigeons are pretty persistent and may try to dump sticks and other nest materials on top of the bird spikes, so you may need to clean off the spikes a couple of times a year.
If the birds are nesting in the chimney, install a stainless steel chimney cap designed to prevent birds and other animals from getting in while still allowing the smoke to vent out.
If your roof is too steep to scale yourself, call a chimney sweep. Most are adept at capping chimneys. But be sure the birds are out before you screen off any areas.
Do this by making loud noises (firecrackers work well) and waiting until the birds fly out. Although pigeons are considered a medium-size bird, they often skinny in under tiles to nest.
Trying to net the entire roof is an enormous--and expensive--task although there are companies that do this. The results are long-term, and many businesses and homeowners say the expense is justified.
A less expensive, labor-intensive alternative is to simply fill in the gaps in the tiles with cement. Do this along the roof line if it is devoid of the prefabricated pieces of tile designed to keep birds out. This technique will work wherever there are gaps in the tiles.
Last, figure out what the birds are eating and drinking, and eliminate it. If your neighborhood is being victimized, you might need to call a meeting to get everyone's cooperation.
To purchase netting or bird spikes, or to find a netting contractor, call Bird Barrier America at (800) 503-5444. To purchase a chimney cap, call HY-C Co. at (800) 325-7076.
Got critter conflicts? Send your queries to wildlife biologist Andrea Kitay at P.O. Box 2489, Camarillo, CA 93011, or via e-mail to email@example.com. Please include your name and city. Questions cannot be answered individually.
For a list of Wildlife Bulletins that provide sound advise on homeowner-wildlife conflicts ($4 each), send a SASE to the above address, or visit www.livingwithwildlife.com.