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Protecting buildings against feral pigeons

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Feral pigeons (Columba livia, Gmelin 1789) cause different problems for building owners when using structures for daytime perching, sleeping, and breeding. Problems include fouling of building facades and pavements, transmission of allergens and pathogenic microorganisms, and infestations with ectoparasites emanating from breeding sites. Owners are primarily interested in keeping away unwanted pigeons from their property. Pest control companies offer different deterrent systems, of widely varying efficacy, for proofing buildings against feral pigeons. A better solution is avoiding attractive structures during building design or subsequent alterations of existing structures used by feral pigeons. With our study, we elaborate the relevant structural data to help to maintain a building free of pigeons. We performed experiments with free ranging feral pigeons in a feral pigeon loft in the City of Basel, Switzerland. The maximum outlet width a pigeon is not able to pass through is 4 cm; the respective outlet height is 5 cm and a pigeon-safe square opening is not larger than 6 × 6 cm. The maximum ledge width a pigeon is not able to sit on is 4 cm. The pigeon-safe angle of inclination for smooth construction materials (tinplate, glass, plastics) is 25°, for medium rough materials (wood, plane concrete) 35°, and for rough materials (sandstone, rough concrete) at least 50°. Additionally, we studied the behavioral strategies used by feral pigeons to surmount our experimental constructional restrictions, ledge width, and ledge inclinations. Our data provide the essential data to prevent feral pigeons from using building structures.

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We are very grateful to Andreas Ochsenbein for technical support and assistance. We thank Chris Feare for his valuable comments and amendments.

All experiments were performed with the animal experimental permission of the Cantonal Veterinary Office of Basel-Town, Switzerland (authorization no. 2121 of the 16 Feb. 2006) and conformed to Swiss law on animal welfare.

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Correspondence to Daniel Haag-Wackernagel.

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Communicated by W. Lutz

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Haag-Wackernagel, D., Geigenfeind, I. Protecting buildings against feral pigeons. Eur J Wildl Res 54, 715–721 (2008).

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