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Bird droppings (guano, dung or manure) consists of both faeces and urine since birds excrete through the cloaca, a single opening, in contrast to mammals that excrete through two separate openings. You therefore see a darker section (the faeces) and a whitish section (the urine) in a typical bird dropping (Loon, 2005).

While some bird species keep their nests clean by removing or eating their chicks droppings, pigeons and doves don’t go to such lengths – rather both the adults and the chicks deposit their droppings right in and around the nest. Seems unhygienic, however, this practice is thought to serve an important function, as stated by Loon (2005, p.181): “They act as cement to bind the flimsy twig nest together, a structural improvement that becomes increasingly important as the chicks get bigger.”

When looking into the subject of using pigeon droppings as fertiliser, I came across the usual ignorant and prejudice remarks in certain Q & A websites, such as, “No, never use pigeon droppings! Pigeons are diseased and dirty.” You get my drift. Don’t listen to these people. They don’t know what they’re saying.

Side note: Pigeons pose no serious health risk. If you doubt me please go to: Pigeons Do NOT Present a Health Hazard to Humans and Feral pigeons and disease – do pigeons carry disease?.

Pigeon guano was in fact commonly used for centuries as a prized fertiliser. It was also used to manufacture a critical ingredient of gunpowder: saltpetre (Blechman, 2006).

I did find many gardener and organic growing websites that praised the use of pigeon dung as fertiliser. In fact, pigeon dung rates higher than other manures, with 4.2% nitrogen, 3% phosphorous, and 1.4% potassium (see: Using Manure to Fertilize Your Garden).

Steve Harris (2010) states in his article (see references): “In addition to food, pigeons produced valuable guano so rich in nutrients that one load of it was worth 10 from any other species. In many countries, pigeon dung actually played a key part in agricultural development.”

So why is it not as valuable today? Well, commercially other manures seemed to have become more popular and sold as fertiliser (because of availability), and nowadays pigeon dung is considered more of a health hazard and aesthetic nuisance. Due to the acidic nature of pigeon dung people are becoming upset that it will corrode buildings and monuments where pigeons congregate in large flocks, especially in cities (Blechman, 2006).

Now I must add the usual caution here (just to cover my back). If you are going to deal with large quantities of pigeon droppings (or any faeces for that matter) then please use some common sense. Wear a mask and gloves. However, there is no reason to become hysterical. Please have a read through the folllowing two websites that clearly state that it is extremely unlikely that you will catch any diseases from pigeon dung (unless you have a compromised immune system, in which case you shouldn’t be handling any type of droppings): Facts about pigeon-related diseases, Pigeon Droppings and Cleaning pigeon droppings.

So while seeing statues and buildings splattered with pigeon droppings might be unpleasant to the eye, maybe there is a peaceful solution? Remove the droppings and use it as fertiliser! :)

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References:

  • Blechman, Andrew D. (2006). Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird. Grove Press, New York.
  • Loon, Rael and Hélène. (2005). Birds, The Inside Story. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  • Harris, Steve. (2010). BBC Wildlife magazine. Feral pigeon: flying rat or urban hero? [online]. [Accessed 4th December 2010]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.bbcwildlifemagazine.com/british-wildlife/feral-pigeon-flying-rat-or-urban-hero

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Pet Pigeon Book

The Pet Pigeon Book is a notebook I bought to fill with all the relevant information about Georgie and Elmo.

It contains the following:

  • dates when we received Elmo and Georgie
  • their hatch-day details
  • their weights each month
  • the dates when Georgie laid her eggs
  • vet details
  • health records
  • any medication details
  • holiday notes
  • pigeon sitter details

As time goes by I add things to Georgie’s and Elmo’s individual pages.

We also have a few laminated sheets with instructions for the pet sitters on how to care for Elmo and Georgie – all the quirks and special things they need to consider. Many people have never cared for an indoor pigeon before so we have to make sure that they know what to expect.

I think it is always a good idea to record little things as well as the big things. You never know when you might need the information.

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Georgie's front page

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Elmo's front page


Two days ago I posted Goddess of the Sun in which I wrote about Georgie being out in the garden, having a good time soaking up the rays of the sun. Well, after I had posted that I noticed that Georgie was closing her left eye a lot. We checked her eye to see if she had anything stuck in it but we found nothing. Instead we noticed that her eye looked very dry. Her right eye was normal looking.

Georgie’s left eye is the one that is quite cloudy, as seen in this photo:

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All day on Sunday Georgie kept closing her eye and first thing Monday I got some eye drops for her, which we applied (too early to say if it has helped).

I think that maybe her day out in the sun caused her eye to dry up so when I take her out next time I’ll put a drop on her eye and see if that helps. If it doesn’t then a trip to the vet will be in order.

When things like this happen I feel very sorry for George because she cannot tell me in words what’s wrong. She relies on us to take care of her and understand what she needs, and when she’s having a bad day or has health problems it can be hard to interpret her needs. It can be hard to do the right thing because on the one hand you don’t want to over-react and take your animal to the vet for tests and injections, but on the other hand, if you are slow to react you can make things worst. I guess all you can do is trust your instincts to know what action to take in bad situations.

When Georgie became eggbound last year (Georgie eggbound) it was tough to sit back and wait for her to respond to the treatment she had to help her expel the egg. Although I had sought veterinary advice and done what was needed, I still felt very powerless and as if I hadn’t done enough to help her. I now can see that we had done everything right in helping her in that situation, which gives me confidence to respond if it ever happens again, but I think there’ll always a part of me that fears the worst.

Ok, gotta stop this train of thought now.

I love my pigeon and my pigeon loves me! :)


We have discovered what looks like a blood blister on one of Elmo’s toes. :(

Since he has a slight limp and drags his left foot a bit when he walks, Elmo has developed slight carpet burns and a blood blister on his left foot.

P1020269We have put a small plaster around the blister to prevent him from aggravating it any more and are keeping an eye on it. We don’t want to have to burst it since it could become infected.

It’s been two days now and it hasn’t gone away yet. If it’s still there by the weekend we’ll take him to the vet to see what advice and treatment they can give.

Short of ripping up the carpeting there isn’t much we can do to prevent him from getting sores on his left foot since he puts more pressure on that foot due to his limp. Maybe we should make little shoes for Elmo?!

Here’s the poor boy with his plaster on:

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