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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:


A review of the book “Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird” by Andrew D. Blechman (2006).

I must admit I had high hopes for this book. I’ve read a lot of books in this style and have liked them, but this book let me down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it had some good information and writing in it – touching on a wide range of pigeon related subjects, such as pigeon racing, pigeon fanciers, pigeon shooting and pigeon control, however, it didn’t quite hit the mark with me. Maybe it is because I’m so pigeon crazy that I couldn’t help notice the lack of emotion on the author’s part. Maybe I’m wrong in saying this, since I know that his involvement with this book and pigeons has turned him into a pigeon advocate – and I love that!! However, this book feels more about the people who love and hate pigeons, rather than about pigeons themselves – therefore the title of the book is a bit misleading.

I felt that there were a few things that could have been left out of this book – particularly the chapter in which the author tries to talk to Mike Tyson about pigeons. That was a useless chapter; more about celebrity chasing than about pigeons. And although I was horrified to read about squab farming and how they are killed (I think the image the author has pushed into my brain will stay with me forever. It brings tears to my eyes now thinking about how these helpless birds are killed) – I think it is necessary for readers to hear about the horrific practice of squab farming. However, I think it was very tasteless to add a recipe on pigeon pot pie at the end of the chapter.

The author got some good quotes from pigeon people, such as the one by Dr. Jean Hansell, “People just don’t make the connection between the dove of peace and the pigeon in the street.” How true is that?! If everyone simply realised that a dove and a pigeon are one and the same then maybe they’d not view feral pigeons as vermin and dirty. I thought it is interesting how some pigeon fanciers think feral pigeons give their fancy pigeons a bad name. Fancy pigeons came from ferals so where’s the logic in that?

Then one of the pigeon fanciers, a man nicknamed Dr. Pigeon, states that maybe pigeons don’t feel pain since pigeons often don’t act like they are in pain after being hurt. No offence, but that’s a ridiculous statement. Pigeons have to have a strong survival instinct because of all the dangers in the world and cannot show weakness when hurt, so they don’t make a fuss about it. A lot of animal species are like this. Just because they’re not wailing and crying out in pain doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain.

One breed of pigeon I hadn’t heard of before I read about them in this book was of Parlor Rollers. These pigeons are bred to somersault backwards on the ground. People compete to see which pigeon can roll the furthest and the longest. I’ve seen a few videos of this on the net and have taken an instant dislike for such practices. Why breed a pigeon that has a need to roll on the ground for no purpose whatsoever? What’s the attraction? On top of that, I think it is inhumane. Poor pigeons – humans have bred this trait in them to the extreme. They don’t have much choice in the matter.

One good thing about this book is how he highlights the cruelty and uselessness of pigeon shooting. You can really see the ignorance and small-mindedness of the people who consider pigeon shooting as sport. I will never understand how the minds of these people work. How can someone consider shooting an animal as a victory?

As well as writing about pigeon shooting, the author writes extensively about pigeon pest control and the ineffective and inhumane methods pest control companies use. He talks to two prominent people who fight against these methods and promote humane and realistic methods of pigeon control. One such person, Dave Roth, who runs the Urban Wildlife Society, says something (talking about his loving relationship with one of his pigeons) that I wholly agree with: “If everybody could experience this kind of relationship with a bird, then we wouldn’t have all the problems we have today with the pigeon haters.” This is exactly how I feel about my pigeons.

Another pigeon advocate is Guy Merchant, the founder of the Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS). He 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.”

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.” Good solid statements that they can back up since they are the experts. Hooray!

The author writes about the dangers of over-feeding pigeons, how we can do more harm than good. I do agree. By supplying huge amounts of food we are helping pigeons breed in vast numbers that attract unwanted attention. That’s when pest control companies are called out. Good intentions can also be the problem.

I’m not sure I can describe why I am disappointed with this book, it could be because of the horrible things people do to pigeons that he’s written about. It’s left me feeling sad and maybe that has tainted my feelings about the book. If I am to be objective then this book has a good array of information of the positive things about pigeons and the negative side of humans, however, reading it may leave you a bit depressed if you are against animal-abuse and exploitation because the author has written about these more than anything else. Maybe a bit more about pigeon loving should be in the book.

Ps. Some might view this post as an attack on pigeon shooters, fanciers, etc., and I admit it is (although a much restrained attack). These are my views and many pigeon people might not like them but my interests in pigeons have nothing to do with how fast they can fly, how ‘pretty’ they look, how long they can roll or how good they might taste. I love pigeons simply because I have the good fortune to know that they are unique in character, have wonderful personalities and have a rich and diverse social life. They are unique beings and should be loved for just being themselves – not how much money they can make us.

Note: All quotes in this post are from the book: Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird, by Andrew D. Blechman, 2006.


I have to have a rant about pest control companies. They really ruffle my feathers, so to speak. The misinformation they spread about pigeons does my head in, and the fact that they pretend they are protecting people by charging huge amounts of money to remove so-called ‘pests’ and protect buildings by bird proofing is criminal. All they do is kill animals and therefore make the area available for more such animals to move in and make a home there (so in fact they are just a short term solution) and putting up netting and spikes that not only trap birds but also harm them if they try to land in the area.

During the past few weeks I’ve been reading lots of news about pigeons being trapped in buildings, under bridges, etc., due to pest control companies putting up netting. These unfeeling people don’t want to waste their time and money to remove the pigeons (really, all they need to do is shoo them off. And if there are babies – just take them to a rescue centre! But what am I saying? These are vermin I’m talking about!!), rather they feel fine with just trapping them and leaving them to die a slow and painful death. All they care about is making money and they have no compassion. Surely leaving animals to die in such a way is against the law? Aren’t they supposed to kill animals in a humane way if they must kill?

Sure, these could all be lovely people who love their family and dog and cat, but I sometimes wonder how they can sleep at night? And who would want to set up a pest control company and kill animals for a living? Maybe they truly believe in the myths and misinformation they spread? Maybe they really think they are protecting people? … And most horrific of all, maybe they believe that so-called pests and vermin don’t have the same feelings as the beloved cat and dog?


Nearly everyone has seen an ill, injured or orphaned pigeon in their life – be it in a city, town, park or a garden. There are a lot of predators, disease and harmful things out there that affect pigeons, and sometimes people don’t know what is the right thing to do when they come across a baby pigeon or an injured or ill pigeon.

First, let me just say that pigeons do not carry millions of diseases that humans can contract. That is just scaremongering, mainly from pest control companies (that are out to make money) and ignorant people (who either hate pigeons or are afraid of them). All living beings carry disease – humans included! – and some do pass on to other species, however, if everyone just used a bit of common sense, such as good hygiene measures (e.g. wash your hands after coming in from outside), then this myth that pigeons are infested with disease that will kill you and your family wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is. You can contract disease from a dog or a cat but are they hated as much as feral pigeons? Makes little sense to me.

A pest or vermin is defined by people as any animal that is unwanted or destructive, such as rats, mice, pigeons, foxes and racoons, but this term could very well be attributed to cats, dogs, parrots and songbirds, depending on which country and area you are in. ‘Pest’ and ‘vermin’ are not synonymous with ‘disease’.

The following website supplies good points on the subject (particularly the last paragraph): Pigeons and disease

Ok, back to what to do when you come across an injured, ill or orphaned pigeon.

First, after you have correctly assessed that the pigeon is indeed in need of rescuing (a broken wing or foot is pretty easy to recognise, however, read the following about Recognising a sick pigeon and Rescuing a baby pigeon), you need to safely capture it and place it in a box, cat carrier or other secure container (make sure there are air holes!). Put an old towel, cloth or tissue paper in the box so that the pigeon can grip onto something and to also keep it warm.

After you have the pigeon in a secure box and put it in a warm, safe place (not outside!), contact your local animal rescue centre or wildlife hospital and ask if they can help. Unfortunately, some places do not treat pigeons (since they may consider them as pests) so you need to find a pigeon friendly rescue centre. The best place to find your local rescue centre is to search for it on the internet or look in a phone book. Your local vet or pet shop may also know of an animal rescue centre in the area.

You can take the rescued pigeon to a veterinary surgery, however, many will simply euthanise the bird unless you are willing to pay for its treatment and care. Ask before handing the pigeon over. Some veterinary surgeries will transfer the pigeon to a wildlife rescue centre.

Please read the information on these websites as they contain good instructions on pigeon rescue and first aid: Pigeon and Dove Rescue, Pigeon Aid UK and Pigeon Recovery.

The following link contains a list of wildlife hospitals, sanctuaries and veterinary surgeries around the world that are pigeon friendly: Matilda’s List

This website lists pigeon friendly places in the United Kingdom: Pigeon Friendly Rescue Centres in the UK

The main thing is to not panic. Find someone who can give you advice and help you and the pigeon. Hopefully you’ll feel good about rescuing a pigeon in need. :)

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Editors note: Due to various commitments I am unable to check messages and comments frequently, so if you have an injured or orphaned pigeon please search the internet for your nearest pigeon friendly rescue centre or vets that can give you advice and help (some helpful links are already on this post).

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Feral pigeon caught in netting. Photo courtesy of Dave Risley.

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Baby feral pigeon – few days old

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2 baby feral pigeons – few weeks old


Pigeons have a bad rep. I’m not entirely sure why since they have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been utilised as messangers, raised for food, and kept as pets and for show. So why the ‘flying rat’ and ‘dirty’ image that many people view them as? (Editors note: rats are also given the same bad, if not worst, image as pigeons, however, I feel this is equally unjustified.)

I guess it is just a matter of prejudice. While white doves are considered a symbol of peace, innocence and loyalty, feral pigeons are considered dirty and diseased. Strange since doves and pigeons are actually the same species. Maybe it is only a colour difference that makes someone like or dislike a pigeon?

Pigeons are also often labeled as pests. Humans are quick to call a species a pest if they interfere with agriculture, livestock or our dwellings. How arrogant of us to do so when we are the ones encroaching on their territory and they are simply taking advantage of what we leave around for them. Anyway, I don’t want to rant and rave about this subject. I could get a bit hot under the collar. :)

The reason I’m bringing this up is to say that although pigeons are not generally thought by the masses as pet animals, they are indeed one of the best species to have as a pet, and can rival a dog! Pigeons are intelligent, clean, easily tamed (especially if hand-reared), found in different shapes and colours, and are very entertaining and loving. I’m not advocating for people to go out there and capture feral pigeons to keep as pets, not at all! Rather I’m just trying to show that if, for some chance, a tame or baby pigeon comes your way don’t make any rash decisions. You have a wonderful animal in your hands!

For those of you who are not quite sure about pigeons, why not take part in The Feral Pigeon Project: http://feralpigeonproject.com/ It may help you see pigeons in a different light once you’ve started observing them.

Going onto a pigeon forum and reading peoples positive viewings will also help you realise what wonderful animals pigeons are. My personal recommendation is this forum, Pigeon Angels, for a friendly and relaxing atmosphere: http://pij-n-angels.forumotion.net/

For those of you who cannot or will not see pigeons as anything other than a pest, and have an issue with them on your property, please have a look at these two websites before attempting to remove them in a non-humane way: Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS) and Humane Urban Wildlife Deterrence Association.