For the last few months, I’ve been embroiled in an ongoing battle of wits with the local pigeon population. Along with the other small birds on my balcony, I’d been enjoying a nice pigeon-free existence until the local pigeons discovered that there was food to be had there. They started visiting in ever increasing numbers, and with ever increasing confidence. And who can blame them, really? After all, they’re wild animals in need of food and are therefore unlikely to turn down an easy meal.
So what’s the problem, then? The problem is: they are a massive pain in the balls. They hoover up all the food before the smaller birds can get a look in, they shit everywhere, and they dig through the soil, chucking it about and making an absolute bloody mess.
It’s a shame, as I used to be visited several times a day by chaffinches- who tend to prefer feeding from a flat surface to a feeder. However, since the bird table stopped having any food left on it, they seem to have lost interest and I’ve not seen one for ages.
My pigeon-proofing efforts have included raising the height of the bird feeders so the pigeons couldn’t reach them, installing pigeon spikes, and enlisting my dad’s help in making a rather nifty little cage to go over the bird table:
Me (and all the other small birds) one, pigeons nil.
The cage seemed to work for a while, until this happened:
“This isn’t over!” I exclaimed, shaking my fists out of the window at the feathered bastards. They didn’t care, of course, because they’re pigeons and they have no understanding of human language or hand gestures.
Another of my ideas was to put garden canes in the pots to stop the pigeons from getting into them and digging up the soil (and some newly-planted bulbs). Again, this works up to a point but they still seem to wedge themselves in among the sticks to get to the food.
A better alternative to the sticks seems to be to cover the pots in chicken wire, a tactic I have deployed on my pots containing bulbs. I’ve also used upturned hanging baskets with some success.
My increasingly obsessive desperation to outwit the pigeons is demonstrated quite well in this photo, I think:
Unsurprisingly, they still don’t seem that bothered:
Short of putting up netting around the entire balcony (which I’m not going to do for fear of smaller birds getting caught in it), I don’t think I’m likely to ever deter them completely. I think I need to just get over it and learn to admire them for their perseverance. I am essentially the Wile E. Coyote to their Road Runner, employing ever more elaborate Acme brand products in a futile attempt to overcome them. And anyway, perhaps it’s wrong to discriminate against them, just because they’re not as popular as the other avian visitors. They are quite beautiful when you think about it, with their iridescent neck feathers. I certainly wouldn’t do them any harm – I have, in fact, been known to free them from buckets and from my watering can when they’ve got stuck inside them (although I admit it was with a smug “who’s the smart one now, eh?” feeling as I did it).
My acceptance for the pigeons was cemented further recently when Winterwatch featured a piece about The Feral Pigeon Project, which aims to find out more about the ecology of feral pigeons. It taught me a bit more about the different colourings of these birds and prompted me to observe them in a different way.
And so, that’s the story of one person’s begrudging resignation to the way of the pigeon. I’m such an old softie.