Why are there so many of them?

Feral pigeons are descended from wild rock doves and their populations have increased, especially in urban areas, in recent years.

Feral pigeons often form large flocks that roost on buildings, ledges and under bridges. They can often be found in loft spaces and empty buildings - anywhere that offers a small amount of shelter. Feral pigeons can breed all year round if food is in good supply and raise between three and six broods of two 'squabs' a year. Food is the most important factor determining the size of any pigeon population, and the best known, long term solutions to pigeon problems is to restrict its availability.

What do pigeons eat?

Their preferred diet is grain and seed, but they will scavenge food, take food from bird tables and eat household scraps and discarded takeaway foods.

Pigeons are wild birds capable of finding their own food. In a public area throwing food on to the ground can be considered as littering and will attract rats. Waste human food does not contain the essential vitamins the birds require and can lead to ill health and deformity.

Feeding pigeons in itself is not against the law but it is not necessary. It results in all year breeding that causes overcrowding. If feeding is reduced, their numbers will decline resulting in a smaller healthier flock with less need for drastic control measures.

Please do not feed the pigeons.

Do pigeons do any harm?

Damage - pigeon droppings are not only unsightly but are acidic and in large quantities can cause damage to buildings and machinery. Nesting material, droppings and feathers can also block gutters and air vents.

Public health - pigeons can carry diseases, some of which may be passed to people, for example if droppings contaminate food stuffs. As such their presence cannot be tolerated in and around food premises. They also carry mites which can cause skin disease and dust from their feathers can cause respiratory problems in confined spaces.

Accidents - pigeon droppings and food left down for pigeons can cause walkways and fire escapes on buildings to become slippery and dangerous. Startled flocks can take flight suddenly, causing hazards to motorists and pedestrians.

Other birds - large numbers of pigeons can force smaller birds away from feeding areas. The pigeons also spread disease to other birds, reducing their numbers.

How do I get rid of them?

The Council has no policy to control or cull birds within the area.

It is generally acknowledged that reducing the population by culling can only have a short-term effect, and populations soon recover.

Food is the most important factor determining the size of any pigeon population, and the best known, long-term solution to pigeon problems is to restrict its availability.

Numbers can also be reduced by restricting roosting and nesting spaces. Replacing broken roof tiles and closing open/broken windows will stop pigeons gaining access to buildings. Specialist contractors use fine mist nets and small spikes placed on windows to discourage pigeons from roosting on buildings.

Specialist contractors can be employed to carry out appropriate action. Darlington Borough Council does not provide this service or any financial assistance to carry out the work.

What the law says about pigeons

Most birds and their nests are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The Act allows for the control of certain birds, including feral pigeons, by authorised persons using specified methods to prevent serious damage to agriculture, to preserve public health / air safety, or to conserve other wild birds.

The use of spring traps, poisons, certain types of nets, gassing and sticky substances that may entangle a bird are illegal. Approved methods include trapping or drugging followed by humane destruction and shooting.

It is an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 to intentionally kill a racing pigeon.