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Effect of an ultrasonic device on the behaviour and the stress hormone corticosterone in feral pigeons

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The worldwide presence of feral pigeons Columba livia domestica in urban habitats presents potential public health hazards from pathogens and parasites, and droppings can lead to damage to buildings. A variety of lethal and non-lethal chemical repellents, visual, sonic or mechanic measures are available to deter pigeons, but they are not always applicable or effective. Ultrasonic devices are one of the available possibilities with the advantage of being inaudible to humans and more or less harmless to animals. However, their utility is questionable, because the upper limit of frequencies heard by pigeons reported is well below that of ultrasound. We tested whether a commercially used ultrasound deterrent system has an effect on the behaviour of free-living, as well as caged feral pigeons and assessed whether ultrasound has a physiological effect, i.e. whether it can activate the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal-axis (HPA-axis) known to trigger flight behaviour. Our experimental tests did neither show any effect on the behaviour and the HPA-axis of the caged pigeons nor any deterring effect on the free-living pigeons. A habituation effect could not be detected. We therefore, conclude that ultrasound does not deter feral pigeons.

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We thank G. Häfliger who installed the video system. Special thanks go to L. Rumpf who took care of the pigeons in the aviaries, analysed the videos and helped with the corticosterone analysis. R. Weibel provided the ultrasonic devices and installed them for our experiments. R. Maggini, C. Müller, B. Almasi, B. Homberger and L. Jenni helped to take blood samples. I. Kaiser helped counting the pigeons on the numerous photos taken at the dovecote. We also thank M. Keller, S. Steiner and F. Vannay of the department of environment of the city of Lucerne, H. Lampart, person in charge of the dovecot in the townhall of Lucerne, C. Grünenfelder of the preservation of historic buildings and monuments of the canton of Lucerne and D. Mathis, facility management of the city of Lucerne. The study was financed by the Foundation Hans Wilsdorf, Switzerland. We thank D. Haag-Wackernagel and L. Jenni for critical comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Susanne Jenni-Eiermann.

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Communicated by J. Jacob.

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Jenni-Eiermann, S., Heynen, D. & Schaub, M. Effect of an ultrasonic device on the behaviour and the stress hormone corticosterone in feral pigeons. J Pest Sci 87, 315–322 (2014).

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