Pidgey is confused. It hurt itself in its confusion.
September 19, 2010 7:03 PM   Subscribe

There are pigeons everywhere. Please help me make them dead (or gone).

There are pigeons on our roof. There are pigeons on our windows, on our balcony, and on the stairs outside our apartment. Yesterday, there was one in our kitchen. We are under siege.

There are other threads about pigeons, but most of the remedies are contingent on having access to where the pigeons hang out. This is fine for my balcony, but doesn't help us for the ridiculous trellising (?) outside our window, which I cannot access (pic - don't even get me started on the moron who decided that would be a good idea. Oh yeah, cause why would you want natural light to get into your house?)

Is there some sort of electronic contraption we can use to keep these fuckers away? Something which doesn't require the installation of spikes (which are hideous slash expensive slash impossible to install)? Something which doesn't require more than occasional checks/maintenance?

Please help!

Other potentially useful contextual information:

There are at least three people (one old woman, one chinese takeway owner, and one hippy 'save the pigeons' activist) that feed the pigeons in my pedestrian street, so there's no way to get them at the source.

There are a number of areas in my street where the pigeons have made their homes BETWEEN OR ON TOP OF THE PIGEON SPIKES, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

I don't know what pigeons are like where you're from (an American friend of mine loves pigeons and can't believe I'd want to get rid of them), but here they're like homeless people with wings.


Pigeons are, apparently, unperturbed by rubber snakes.
posted by doublehappy to Pets & Animals (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, let me make my question clearer:

How do I get rid of pigeons from the exterior of my house, to which I have no physical access?
posted by doublehappy at 7:12 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

...but here they're like homeless people with wings.

WTF is that supposed to mean?

Also, if you can't actually access the area, there's precious little you can do. Maybe a ceramic owl on your balcony?
posted by halogen at 7:19 PM on September 19, 2010

Implore your landlord to install bird spikes on your roof and balcony.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:24 PM on September 19, 2010

I can't believe I'm saying this, but it sounds like something like Bird-X is what you need.

I can't believe I'm saying that because one of my neighbors has one (WHY I DO NOT KNOW, there is no bird/pest problem), and it's not silent to me. Go here and see if you can hear that noise linked in the first line. (I'm almost 32 and I can hear it.) If you can, you'll probably hear Bird-X, and you will probably want to kill everyone.

But if you can't hear it, go for it. (It has seriously kept me up nights, until I found the source and called 311 relentlessly over the course of a few weeks. I assume some authority figure went to the home, but of course now that I'm writing this the noise will come back.)

Oooh, I like TERROR EYES!!!!
posted by AlisonM at 7:25 PM on September 19, 2010

Oh, I see you said they were not deterred by the spikes. Maybe more spikes?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:25 PM on September 19, 2010

You mentioned you are in an apartment. Do you have a landlord and have you contacted them? Pigeon eradication often falls under their realm of responsibility as pigeons are disgusting mess makers and carriers of disease. An exterminator/pigeon removal service could come in very handy here.
posted by cecic at 7:26 PM on September 19, 2010

Or hell, see the video on this page? Loop it and put speakers on your balcony.
posted by AlisonM at 7:28 PM on September 19, 2010

Ugh, I'm so sorry that you're dealing with them. I was in a similar situation in a (fortunately temporary) place and my reading led me to conclude that the electronic noise-makers and giant owl eyes don't tend to work that well. There wasn't really anything else to do, so I just put up with it until moving out.

I feel horrible saying it, but I hope that poisoning pigeons is legal in your jurisdiction. It's illegal in some places.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:32 PM on September 19, 2010

@halogen: Bad joke, I apologize.

@Burhanistan: We had spikes on the balcony, but this just meant they spent more time sitting on the table, on our shoes, etc. The spikes also prevented us actually leaning on the wide railing, which wasn't ideal.

@AlisonM: I played that four times and couldn't hear it... then I realised my speakers were off. Turns out I can hear it and I want to kill people now! Thanks, though! Might give the eyes a go, but I'm scared of the dark and don't really want one of those dangling in my bedroom!

@needs more cowbell et al: I've tried the landlord. She's not interested. The body corporate doesn't care either, and it's hard enough getting them to fix things that are actually important to, you know, getting into the building without catching fire!
posted by doublehappy at 7:36 PM on September 19, 2010

Sometimes the only solution in a situation like this is to move.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:48 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honest answer that I still expect plenty of people to jump on me for: air rifle? Might not scare them off permanently (that is, the ones you hit might learn, but I bet there are plenty more to replace those) - but it might be very satisfying....
posted by ish__ at 7:48 PM on September 19, 2010

Wow. I was just about to ask this same question. My new apartment has some serious Alfred Hitchcock-level pigeoning going on.

I have had some (mild, I need to keep at it) success shaking a can of pennies (very, very loudly) every time I see them congregate. The noise scares them away for a while. They come back, I shake again, wash, rinse, repeat. I'm hoping that they eventually start associating my home with SCARY NOISES and move along.

Please let us know what, if anything, works.
posted by phunniemee at 7:57 PM on September 19, 2010

@ish__: I think that'd probably end in arrest, but I like your thinking.

@phunniemee: I've also tried similar things, but obviously I can't do that when I'm at work, etc. and they seem to become very quickly accustomed to loud noise and movement. There are two that sit on the sign above the entrance of the shop next door and occasionally won't even move if the owner gets up there and hits them with a broom. They're like dying blowflies.
posted by doublehappy at 8:03 PM on September 19, 2010

But I'll let you know!
posted by doublehappy at 8:03 PM on September 19, 2010

If not what Chocolate Pickle suggests, than please please look for humane alternatives. Perhaps some of the information here is useful.

Please don't kill the pigeons, and no I'm not a "hippy."
posted by DeltaForce at 8:05 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding the fake owl or other bird-of-prey. Here in Portland I know a guy that has a giant metal eagle mounted to the corner of his vast roof deck. Seems to do the trick quite nicely.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:07 PM on September 19, 2010

There are at least three people (one old woman, one chinese takeway owner, and one hippy 'save the pigeons' activist) that feed the pigeons in my pedestrian street, so there's no way to get them at the source.

Is feeding pigeons legal in your jurisdiction? A lot of places, it isn't.

Now, certainly the police have better things to do, and they're probably not very likely to do much of anything, but hey, if there is a law, it's their job to enforce it. Call them up and complain.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:09 PM on September 19, 2010

Several places around here intermittently blast recordings of predator birds which seems to keep the pigeons away.
posted by sanko at 8:11 PM on September 19, 2010

I was just having this discussion with my neighbor. Unfortunately, nothing seems to work. You can try putting the spikes/nail strips on every possible perch, but they always seem to find somewhere else to perch. The fake owls are useless. My dog helps a bit in shooing them away.

Be sure to berate people who actually feed the feckers. (Here in San Francisco it's against the law.)
posted by trip and a half at 8:13 PM on September 19, 2010

There are a couple of pigeon control agencies in Toronto, like this one (check out the trellis situation in one of the pics - under 'home owners'). I'd suggest finding a similar company in your area and contacting them for a consultation. They might have more solutions than you think possible. My friend had a great experience with such a company - they even cleaned up bird droppings etc. before they put up netting.
posted by analog at 8:14 PM on September 19, 2010

Can you set up a motion-sensitive sprinkler or noisemaker? For the sprinkler you'd need to connect to an inside water source, probably.
posted by corey flood at 8:14 PM on September 19, 2010

Well, how about a cat? Plus a cat door so she/he can get out onto the balcony while you're at work. Not sure how wide a radius evolution has taught birds to keep away from felines but might help a bit at least. And, needless to say, some folks would find other advantages to go with this solution. ;-)
posted by 5Q7 at 8:16 PM on September 19, 2010

Absolutely DO NOT poison the pigeons, even if it is legal. Pigeons are eaten by many other animals that will die if they eat the poisoned ones.

Many birds of prey die because they eat poisoned pigeons (the ones dying are easy to catch.)
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:30 PM on September 19, 2010 [11 favorites]

I had a similar problem at my previous apartment and made most of the pigeons go away with a fake plastic owl. It helps to move the owl every few days as eventually the pigeons wise up to it. This will mitigate the problem, but as long as they have a source of food they will continue to show up. The owl will help but they'll never completely go away. Why should they? Most urban animals are half starving and they'll take a chance for an easy meal even when there's an owl around. Confront those who feed them if the owl doesn't work. Heck, confront them anyway. Feeding wild animals is never a good idea.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:36 PM on September 19, 2010

Don't just berate the pigeon-feeders, go down, walk up and take pictures of them. Obviously, with flash, so that their face is clear. Then tell them you're calling the police the next time you see them feeding pigeons and no you're not going to be cool about it, man.
posted by rhizome at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2010

Well, how about a cat?

I can't tell how serious this is, but with all due respect please please don't adopt an animal unless you truly want to be/are ready to commit to being a loving long-term companion.

Folks in my building have had good luck with the fake owl thing. Unbelievably, it really seems to work.
posted by mintcake! at 9:10 PM on September 19, 2010

Get some fox urine from an outdoor sports store.

Downside: fox urine may be worse than pigeon poop.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:23 PM on September 19, 2010

You could try a scarecrow... In Japan, crows will often try to get a ripening rice, so farmers usually hoist up a scarecrows every 20-30 meters or so. For a scarecrow, farmers plant a 5' length of bamboo into the field, and tie a black plastic bag to it with a length of string, so it sways in the breeze.

Why black plastic? Because it looks like a dead crow. On a couple of occasions I've come across a scarecrow dangling a *real* dead crow.

Perhaps you could create something similar for pigeons. The more realistic, the better.

Other techniques farmers use in Japan are shiny lengths of foil that twinkle in the sunlight.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:29 PM on September 19, 2010

In an old job I was once tasked with keeping pigeons at bay, and this is what I learned from professional exterminators and experience.

Nothing is guaranteed to work, and pretty much nothing will work if there's food around.

Spikes only work to keep them from landing; if they can land nearby and walk there, they actually like spikes because they're a nice strong base for perching/roosting/nesting. Hotfoot & similar can work fairly well on windowsills, but is no good on balconies or railings where you want to walk or lean. Ultrasonic bird scarers can work for a while, but eventually pigeons get used to them; from then on they just keep everything else away, making a nice safe place for pigeons to congregate

On one building we had an alcove outside a roller access door, partially enclosed by expanding trellis, and the little bastards would congregate in there between feeding in the paddock behind and feeding at the crazy neighbour who fed them. What did mostly work there was bird scarers made out of mylar foil - oversized owls with big colourful eyes and dangling tassels. Ours were made from goon bags cut up and painted by kids at the local kindy ;-)
posted by Pinback at 9:49 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Leaf blower. After you ruffle them up pretty good a few times they will start to avoid your place. Pigeons are not completely stupid.

If that's not going to work then hang CDs on strings of various lengths. They rotate in the breeze and scare the pigeons away. Back in the days of AOL bombarding everyone with CDs 90% of the ones they sent to my rural area ended up in people's yards and barns. Thanks AOL!
posted by fshgrl at 10:29 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

No idea if this'll work, but here goes...

feed them. feed them unhealthy food. make them obese and easy to catch by their natural predators. feed them salty things so they spend more time looking for a place to get a drink. I'm thinking bacon bits, m&ms, potato chips, peppermint patties, lemonheads, canned corn.

try googling for unhealthy foods for birds.

If that doesn't work, make a bird trap and take them far away. here's a selection of pigeon traps. they all work on the same principle, one way hinged doors. i made something like this when i was a kid to catch sparrows. it was simple, and worked.
posted by bricksNmortar at 4:10 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some call them flying rats. Some say they're just doves, and aren't they nice. They entertain me, but my daughter still gets a facial tic when she hears "coo coo coo."

They come to my bird feeding area and hang out (I expect to see tiny cigs in the corners of their beaks). They are totally unimpressed by my three cats. Then a hawk will come by and eat one, and I won't see them for awhile. Obviously not a solution that will work for you, but I believe they do react to negative stimuli. A leaf blower sounds good, although you'd have to work at it. Maybe you could also take it down to the street and blow away the food the pigeon-lovers put out. Especially while they're doing it. An air rifle if you would find it fun (check out "A Christmas Story" for details.) Mylar and old CDs seem like they're worth a try.

A pigeon infestation is really, really annoying and you have my sympathy. Cold comfort, I know, but be glad it's not crows.
posted by kestralwing at 5:18 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a small brood outside my window for months. I took to dousing them with water at night, several times a night. After a few days, they got the message and have moved on. I could just toss a glass of water out the window, but I reckon one of those super-soaker guns would have been useful for hitting the target more exactly.

I just read something that said that they have a form of night-blindness. Maybe scaring them at night when their guard is down is more effective than during daylight hours?
posted by sagwalla at 5:22 AM on September 20, 2010

Please update this later, doublehappy -- or an update to metatalk, seriously. I actually have my doubts that the mylar "scarecrows" will work after an initial period, because I had to battle deeply entrenched pigeons of several years of generations on a very small back balcony (that was inches deep in pigeon shit and a horrible health hazard when we moved in), and none of the faux predator balloony-or-other stuff that we did had lasting effects.

In our situation we were finally able to discourage them by a combination of a pigeon-spikes sort of thing on the railing (we used a bunch of zip-ties with pointy ends up — cheap and effective) plus bottles with philodendron growing in them (they can live in mostly-water, and it was a great use for our empty wine bottles) all along the base of the balcony, so they couldn't get a toe-hold and duck in under the railing. But this was a small balcony (for some reason, they were a minimal problem on the huge balcony — maybe because of all the reflective glass from the apartment), and isn't at all helpful for you. We spent months battling the pigeons, though, and I almost decided they were just much smarter than us. And we didn't have your trellis problem to deal with. Great quote from a thread on a similar problem at BoingBoing:

Pigeons are a health problem. Architects are the vector. They design in pigeon habitat. When I was a student, Goddard Library (1965) at Clark University, Worcester, Mass had piles of pigeon poop 36" deep, piled up in crannies and against windows. This building won awards from other architects. Go figure.

Harold Pomeroy

posted by taz at 5:24 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

an air rifle is a good suggestion except for the legal issue. a slingshot may be more practical and meet local legal requirements.
posted by lester at 6:47 AM on September 20, 2010

Probably not practical for your situation, but a pellet gun is your best bet. My dad engaged in pigeon genocide at the metal shop where he worked after he contracted ocular histoplasmosis from bird droppings.
posted by electroboy at 6:52 AM on September 20, 2010

I have heard that pigeons hate the smell of WD40. No idea if this is true, but it might be worth a try. Unless you also hate the smell of WD40.
posted by BinaryApe at 7:02 AM on September 20, 2010

My lovely, golden-eyed, rotaty-head plastic deck owl does nothing, except tip over when the pigeons try to sit on it. Then three of them can sit on it.

I filled the space under my deck bench with a string of inflated latex balloons, and tied one end of the string down. It rustles in the breeze, and it keeps them from roosting under there. However, my lovely urban outdoor paradise looks like Monday morning on the circus lot, and there is always still a pigeon on there somewhere.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't recommend appearing on your balcony with any kind of gun.

I've seen people attach shiny streamers. You could probably loop them on, using a stick or something.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:59 AM on September 20, 2010

UPDATE: So I tried the scarecrow option (anyone in Wellington, NZ, you should be able to see it up above Satay Kingdom) and the pigeons have made themselves right at home. I've also planted some roses, which pigeons supposedly hate (playing the long game).
posted by doublehappy at 7:23 PM on September 20, 2010

When I say "right at home", I mean right at home ON THE SCARECROW.
posted by doublehappy at 7:36 PM on September 20, 2010

Heh. Pidgey is not nearly as confused as we would like.

The trellis (or whatever) is really the groaner here. You can do battle with pigeons on accessible spaces — however difficult, but even if you get them to stay off the balcony... they're going to be surrounding you (them and their poop and their little parasite friends). Even if you did come up with some way to scare them off the trellis (scary predator noises or something), there's still all that buildup of pidgeycrap you can't clean up. Which is kind of scary. Sadly, this seems like a job that can only be effectively addressed by a professional contractor at significant expense.

As far as the balcony goes, if my experience is a guideline, nothing casual is going to work, because they and all their ancestors have been living there forever. Shiny things and fake owls, etc. might work for spaces that are simply opportunistic for the pigeons as opposed to *Pidgey Home Base*. They're always going to try to come back there, and stuff that ultimately doesn't feel life-threatening (or just super-revolting) to them, they'll soon (or immediately, in your case :P) learn to ignore. So outside of maybe a motion-controlled lawn sprinkler if you have a spigot on your balcony (or possibly a cat, but I really wouldn't count on it; not all cats want to chase pigeons, and pigeons become ridiculously good at evading cats), you are left with controlling their access. That means a net, or eliminating all perch opportunities, I'm afraid.
posted by taz at 7:24 AM on September 21, 2010

we have the same problem in our house and it is disgusting. Pigeons are flying rats and I wonder if there's a way of poisoning them without poisoning the unlucky ones that will eat their carcasses. Or food that will sterilize the shit out of them... ?
Anyway, pigeons must die.
posted by uauage at 12:11 PM on September 21, 2010

Motion detector alarm? You could do one that's just noise or perhaps one that will shoot off blasts of water.

Mylar balloons filled with helium? Tie them to your balcony railing and let them bob about. If they work you'll just have to replace them every so often.

Is the trellis something a previous tenant/owner installed? Is it possible to remove it?
posted by deborah at 6:32 PM on September 21, 2010

Motion detector alarm would pretty much destroy any chance of sleep, I imagine.

My landlord expressed a desire to remove it (it's just horizontal planks of wood that do nothing but block my view and cast strangely hypnotic shadows during the day) but he was a politician at the time and wasn't really interested in my pigeon issues. Then he and his wife split up and she got our place and she isn't interested either. Removing it is a $20k job.

I'm remembering a story about the guys from the Happy Mondays poisoning pigeons over Manchester... Pretty sure there aren't any wild animals around here... We did find a dead cat on our balcony once - I didn't suspect the pigeons at the time...
posted by doublehappy at 9:31 PM on September 22, 2010

doublehappy, perhaps the only thing worse than live pigeons in your inaccessible bastard trellis would be dead pigeons in your inaccessible bastard trellis.
posted by taz at 9:42 PM on September 22, 2010

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