What can we do about the greedy pigeons in our garden?
June 29, 2008 3:55 PM   Subscribe

We love watching wild birds coming to eat the seeds we put out in our garden but we're always just invaded by boring pigeons that hoover up the lot. How can we encourage more smaller, more interesting birds and discourage what our children call the "big fat pig-o pigeons"?

We live in the suburbs of a city in southern England with a small garden, which has no trees, though there are trees along the far side of the fence at the bottom of the garden - if any of that is relevant! We get occasional blue tits, sparrows, blackbirds etc and would like to encourage more of those sorts of birds. We currently use a bird table with two horizontal surfaces to put the seed onto, rather than hanging feeders.
posted by monster max to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A bird table is a buffet; almost any type of bird will use it. Generally, different types of feeders attract different types of birds, as do the types of seeds you offer.

Tube feeders will attract smaller birds (the perches are too small for larger birds), but not songbirds. Hopper-type feeders will attract songbirds and flexible larger birds.

Here is a table showing the types of seeds that appeal to different types of birds.

If you google "How to feed birds" you'll get lots of advice. Good luck!
posted by faineant at 4:31 PM on June 29, 2008

Oh, I forgot to mention, if you put in a water source - a fountain with a basin, a traditional birdbath, or even a large plant pot saucer filled with water (and a few perching rocks), you'll encourage even more birds to visit...water is harder to find than food for most birds unless you live near a pond or a stream.
posted by faineant at 4:37 PM on June 29, 2008

Are humming birds in your area? It didn't take long for them to show up at our house after we installed a humming-bird feeder. [Not pigeonist]
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:07 PM on June 29, 2008

For one thing, pigeons and other doves are flat surface eaters who really prefer the ground. Birds knock a lot of seeds onto the ground from any kind of platform feeder, which encourages the big fat pig-o pigeons to stay around. Switching to some variety of, say, tube feeder is a good idea. Actually, switch to anything BUT a platform feeder (which is what a bird table looks like to me. There are also hanging platform feeders. Avoid.).

If you can, sweep or clean under the feeders to get the seed up from the ground, so that the dove-family birds are less likely to find what they want.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:09 PM on June 29, 2008

Nthing the suggestion of a tube feeder. Also, many places that sell seed, birdfeeders, etc. sell special tube feeders designed to discourage "big bully birds." These are feeders that have a weight mechanism that allows smaller, lighter birds like finches to perch and eat, but the weight of a pigeon or other heavy bird makes the perches drop and shuts off access to the seed.

Here is an example of the kind of feeder I'm talking about.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:29 PM on June 29, 2008

We don't get a lot of pigeons, thanks to a tube feeder with a mesh grate around it, and a hanging platform with a very low ceiling.
posted by Good Brain at 8:15 PM on June 29, 2008

Maybe you could consider learning to appreciate pidgeons. There is more going on there then you think.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:46 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

In Australia planting trees and shrubs that are native to your area is encouraged. Much more beneficial for the birds and the environment in general. Sorry if this is irrelevant to your situation.
posted by Duke999R at 2:05 AM on June 30, 2008

Seconding a bird bath and a tude feeder...

You can also get these free-standing bird-feeder 'tree' things with a variety of different feeders on it to attract different birds. You can also get half-coconuts filled with fat stuff to hang from it for little birds (or make your own)...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:07 AM on June 30, 2008

There are feeders out there that have a mesh tube in the middle, and are surrounded by a large cage with holes in it that are small enough to stop anything bigger than a blackbird, but big enough to let tits and finches through.

Vary the food you put out. Anything with wheat seeds in it will attract pigeons. Grated cheese, mashed potato, bacon rind and sliced apples will all attract different bird types.

One thing I found useful was to not give the pigeons anywhere to land. A big feeding table is perfect for them. I nailed an old plastic tray onto a post through the middle, and they wont land on it, because it's not very stable and quite small. Smaller birds don't make it move, so they can feed in peace.
posted by Solomon at 3:11 AM on June 30, 2008

Good recommendations. Review the chart posted by Faineant . Note nearly ALL the smaller birds will feed on Sunflower seed. Black Oil Sunflower seed ONLY on your feeder will discourage the pidgeons. They like the cracked corn, millet, and other grains in a "Wild Bird Mix". The Mixes mostly end up wasted , so the sometimes extra expense of plain sunflower seed is worth any price differential. Also , suet cakes , even in summer are highly sought after by woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmouse.
posted by Agamenticus at 5:20 AM on June 30, 2008

A neighbor built a large dome out of garden fencing over their feeder. Big birds couldn't fit through the holes, but smaller ones could. Similar to the cage around the feeders as mentioned above, but for platform feeders.

Here is an example: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/graphics/pigeon6.jpg
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:15 PM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: Superb advice, everyone, thank you! Sounds like a visit to the local garden centre is in order this weekend, to buy some alternative feeders, a big bag of sunflower seeds and some native plants (nice idea, Duke999R!). Looking forward to the results!

(By the way, spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints, sadly hummingbirds don't live in suburban England. It's a lovely image and it would be amazing if they did but I think there's sadly about as much chance of getting pterodactyls visiting our garden as hummingbirds... sigh ...)
posted by monster max at 5:37 AM on July 2, 2008

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