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It can sometimes be scary to think about the many dangers out there that can threaten your pigeon. Many of these dangers are actually in your home that you may be unaware of.

There are poisonous plants and household products that are toxic, and I think everyone should be aware of the household dangers to your birds. Think of it as baby-proofing your home. But for pigeons instead!

Please have a read through the following website:

Bird Proofing Your Home

Plants considered harmful to birds

Plants that are poisonous for pigeons on Pigeon-Talk

Toxic and Safe Plants/Tree for Birds (also has a list of safe plants)

The following link has a long list of articles regarding toxic and poisonous plants and household products. Well worth the read: Toxins & Hazards

People who dislike or fear pigeons often say that pigeons carry disease that can be passed on to humans. This is their main argument – that pigeons are dirty and diseased. However, what truth is there to this? And what is the real issue?

First of all, all animals – humans included – carry diseases. This is just a fact of life and most people are happy to live their life without worrying that they’ll catch something from another person or their pet dog. Yes, dogs and cats in fact can carry the same number of diseases as pigeons!

The real question is can these diseases be transmitted to humans? Infectious diseases that are transmitted to humans from non-human animals and vice versa are called zoonotic diseases. The answer to the question above is yes, some of the diseases that pigeons may carry can be transmitted to humans, however, the method of transmission is not straight forward. So rest assure – you’re very very unlikely to catch a deadly disease by touching a pigeon! (Please continue to read – quotes from experts on this matter towards the end of this post!)

Let’s put a couple of things into perspective: Human beings carry disease, and there are too many human diseases in the world to count. I haven’t got any medical books to reference, so I cannot give you any figures, however, I’m sure that if you research human diseases you’ll find more than you can stomach.

Here are a few of the zoonotic diseases and parasites that can be caught from cats: Feline cowpox, toxoplasmosis, toxocariasis, ringworm, roundworm, hookworm, feline conjunctivitis, pasteurellosis, salmonella, cat scratch disease (cat scratch fever, bartonellosis), helicobacter pylori, mycobacteria turburculosis, rotavirus, rabies, chlamydia and giardia.

A few from dogs: Brucellosis, campylobacter, hydatid disease, pasteurellosis, rabies, ringworm, roundworm, hookworm, toxocariasis, zoonotic diphtheria, rotavirus, cryptosporidia, giardia, leptospirosis, sarcoptic mange or scabies and fleas.

And here are some zoonotic diseases that pigeons can carry: Chiamdiosis, psittacosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, chlamydia psittaci and campylobacter jejuni.

In an article by Robinson and Pugh called “Dogs, zoonoses and immunosuppression”, they state that “dogs are the source of a wide range of zoonotic infections that pose a significant threat to human health.” Robinson, RA and Pugh, RN. (2002). Dogs, zoonoses and immunosuppression. The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health 122: 95-98

What a statement! But you don’t see many of us panicking about dogs and disease! Rarely do I hear someone say “Dogs are diseased and dirty.” However, pigeons are viewed by many in a very unfair light – just because they can potentially carry disease, much like any other animal out there in the world.

The real issue is whether pigeons pose a threat to the public and your health. This is very easy to answer: No, they do not. (See quotes below from the experts!) I think Steve Harris put it very nicely in his article about pigeons on this subject: “Many websites list the diseases recorded in feral pigeons. How very scary. But let’s put this in context – many more diseases are known in people and their pets. Moreover, all animals carry diseases: the key issue is how often they transfer to humans, and there is little evidence of this happening with feral pigeons. Plus, domestic pigeons often come into contact with feral pigeons but stay perfectly healthy. In other words, feral pigeons simply do not pose a significant health risk. It’s a non-issue.” Harris, S. (2010). BBC Wildlife magazine 28 (10): 52-57

“It’s a non-issue” – something I wish would catch on. … So why all the bad press? Why are pigeons viewed as diseased birds that will kill you if they touch you? Unfortunately it is all down to greed. Pest control companies see pigeons as a continuous resource of money (since pest control methods are highly ineffective in the long term) and have spread misinformation and exaggerated things – thus spreading fear and ignorance in the public.

In turn, local councils have also been fed this misinformation and are trying to deal with the ‘pigeon problem’ in many towns and cities. In many council websites there is usually a page on pigeons and disease and they always state the fact that pigeons pose a health risk, however, I don’t see much in the way of scientific research or references backing up their claims (the same goes for websites for pest control companies).

Guy Merchant, the founder of the Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS), states, “We are the only independent source of unbiased information out there. By comparison, the pest control industries are only motivated by greed. They invest millions of dollars each year on anti-pigeon propaganda and misinformation. It’s entirely unethical. In fact, there are no ethics involved at all. Believe you me, the world hates pigeons because of them.” Blechman, Andrew D. (2006). Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird. Grove Press, New York.

Here are what the experts say (from Do birds spread disease?):

  • On the subject of pigeons and disease, Dr. Nina Marano (an epidemiologist) states that “Pigeons are no more filthy than any other wild bird or animal,” while Dr. Arturo Casadevall (an expert in pigeon faeces) states, “Pigeons are no different than other animals. When it comes to spreading disease, they don’t stand out.” Blechman, Andrew D. (2006). Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird. Grove Press, New York.
  • Mike Everett, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said, in The Big Issue Magazine, February 2001: “The whole ‘rats with wings’ thing is just emotive nonsense. There is no evidence to show that they (pigeons) spread disease.”
  • The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, when addressing the House of Lords in 2000 on the issue of intimate human contact with the then 7,000-8,000 pigeons feeding in Trafalgar Square, was asked if this represented a risk to human health. The Chief Veterinary Officer told The House that in his opinion it did not.
  • Charlotte Donnelly, an American bird control expert told the Cincinnati Environment Advisory Council in her report to them: “The truth is that the vast majority of people are at little or no health risk from pigeons and probably have a greater chance of being struck by lightening than contracting a serious disease from pigeons.”
  • Guy Merchant, Director of The Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS International) says, when talking about the transmission of disease by pigeons: “If we believed everything we read in the media about the health risks associated with pigeons, and the farcical propaganda distributed by the pest control industry, we would never leave our homes. The fact of the matter is that there is probably a greater risk to human health from eating intensively farmed supermarket chicken and eggs, or having contact with domestic pets such as cats, dogs and caged birds, than there is from contact with pigeons.”
  • David A Palmer (B.V.Sc., M.R.C.V.S) said in an article entitled ‘Pigeon Lung Disease Fatality and Health Risk from Ferals’: “Obviously, since all these Allergic Extrinsic Alveolitis disease syndromes rely on the involved person having a very specific allergy before any disease, involving respiratory distress and very unusually death, can possibly be seen, it really makes absolute nonsense for a popular daily newspaper to suggest that pigeons present a health hazard and presumably need eliminating for the well-being of the nation’s health.”
  • David Taylor BVMS FRCVS FZS: “In 50 years professional work as a veterinary surgeon I cannot recall one case of a zoonosis in a human that was related to pigeons. On the other hand I know of, and have seen, examples of human disease related to contact with dogs, cats, cattle, monkeys, sheep, camels, budgies, parrots, cockatoos, aquarium fish and even dolphins, on many occasions.”
  • The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, the New York City Department of Health, and the Arizona Department of Health all agree that diseases associated with pigeons present little risk to people. “We have never documented a pigeon to human transmission in the state of Arizona,” said Mira J Leslie, Arizona’s state public health veterinarian.
  • In response to questions about the effects of pigeons on human health, in 1986 the Association of Pigeon Veterinarians issued a statement that concludes, “…to our knowledge, the raising, keeping, and the exercising of pigeons and doves represents no more of a health hazard than the keeping of other communal or domestic pets.”

As you can see, pigeons pose little threat to us. However, if you aren’t convinced, please visit the following websites: http://www.picasuk.com/index.html and http://www.urbanwildlifesociety.org/zoonoses/

The following video is an excellent documentary on feral pigeons, disease and pest control. Some scenes are distressing to view, however, it is well worth the watch because of the information relayed:

Yesterday I added a post on how to tame a pigeon. Today I want to write a bit on how to care for an indoor tame pigeon. As mentioned, feral or domestic pigeons in captivity can live a long time (up to their early 20′s) and require the same love and care that any other animal needs.

So what does this love and care really mean?

Well, in my eyes it means understanding what the pigeon needs to thrive and be happy and then providing it. Simple! :)

Let me first just point out that in no way is this a definitive list of care instructions – it’s just a few points. If you are thinking of caring for pigeons then, on top of reading what I have to say, please add to your bank of knowledge information from books, pigeon forums and advice from experienced pigeon keepers.

All birds that are flighted should be allowed to fly, the more hours permitted, the better. Keeping a pigeon in a small cage for the rest of its life is cruel. Even if the pigeon cannot fly, as is the case with our two disabled pigeons, they should be allowed time out in your home to exercise and explore. Pigeons are inquisitive and like to roam about looking for food, bedding material or other items of interest.

Having an outside aviary or pen to allow the pigeons to walk or fly about in is also good – direct sunlight allows the pigeon to absorb vitamin D which is required for healthy and strong bone development (if they don’t have access to direct sunlight you’ll have to give them some vitamin D and calcium supplements as well as UV light). Fresh air and rain are also good for pigeons – and many enjoy having a shower during light rainfall.

Providing the appropriate food, housing, temperature and fresh water are a given. If you didn’t know this then you need to do a LOT of reading on animal care before you purchase any animal!

If you have a flighted indoor pigeon ensure that windows and doors aren’t left open for it to escape through, unless your pigeon knows how to return to your home (but there is always the risk that a predator, such as a hawk or cat, will catch your pigeon if it is let out, so be aware of the risks!). Many indoor plants and other household items are also dangerous or poisonous to birds so you need to read up on the dangers. For example, leaving the toilet seat up is a hazard. These two sites provide good advice: Pigeon Safety and Plants/foods that are toxic/poison to pigeons.

So apart from catering for the pigeon’s physical needs there is also their emotional or psychological needs that you must provide for. A tame pigeon may like the company of people as well as pigeons, in which case you can have many pigeons that can keep each other company, however, an imprinted or bonded to humans pigeon may only want your attention and company. They will bond to you and may not tolerate another pigeon in your care (especially if the other pigeon gets close to you).

If you are the pigeon’s mate, so to speak, then you must understand that when you leave for long periods of time (such as going to work, holidays) then your pigeon will miss you and will wait for your return (then you’ll be greeted with great enthusiasm). So don’t play with his or her emotions by not being around to give him/her your company. However, in all honesty you will probably fall head over heels with your pigeon and won’t want to leave him/her alone for long. Trust me.

I’m probably missing a whole range of other things here but I cannot mention them all. The best way to gather information, other than from pigeon books (pigeon books can be quite expensive to buy), is to join a pigeon forum and read what other pigeon lovers have to say. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there!

It’s raining now; overcast and grey, light rain falling steadily. A moment ago there were 7 wood pigeons in our garden, snapping up the peanuts I had thrown down earlier, however, they all burst into the sky in a quick rapid movement as a squirrel scared them away, claiming the remaining peanuts for itself.

Georgie, Elmo and Miss Minnie Malcolm are not getting along so they are each sat in their respective areas of the living room: Georgie on my leg preening herself, Elmo asleep on Richard’s chest and Minnie by Georgie’s cage on the cabinet (in a minute she’ll hop into Georgie’s cage to steal the seed).

Our pigeons may not be getting along with one another now, but they are warm, dry and safe from the dangers of the outside world. Sometimes I think of all the dangers that wild animals have to endure – especially since man appeared on the scene. Once upon a time wildlife’s biggest problems were predators, bad weather and food shortages. Now they not only have those age old problems but an abundance of others: most man-made!

When you think about all the man-made dangers it’s a wonder that wild animals have survived at all. You’ve got rubbish that animals can get caught in or injest and die from; cars and other vehicles; urbanization; gardening practices that can injure or kill animals (e.g. using a strimmer, putting down poison); pesticides and other poisonous chemicals being dumped into the land and ocean; millions of domesticated animals, e.g. cats and dogs, that hunt and kill wildlife; as well as activites of man that directly kill and maim wildlife, e.g. hunting. What a lovely world! :(

It amazes me how resiliant wildlife can be. Feral pigeons included. Mankind has tried its best to make this world so uninviting but the good ol’ feral pigeons have fought back and continue to populate the world. And how have they done this? By being able to breed all year round, to nest and live anywhere, to have both parents able to produce crop-milk and feed their young, and to have a diet that isn’t picky (fish and chips? Yeah, why not!).

Although it will be incredibly sad to loose all those rare and wonderful species at least we know that some animals will be with us for longer than others (before they too eventually disappear… along with us humans). Doom and gloom? Definately! But that’s just the rain affecting my mood. :)

I’m happy to have my pigeons safe and sound in our flat, cuddled up to us as we read or watch a movie. It’s the same scenario as someone with a dog or a cat. Nothing strange. … But pigeons are way cooler! :D