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Saw this video clip and found it very interesting. I love the way the man talks about the loft being a home for wild pigeons as he’s stroking one on his arm! They obviously trust him and you can clearly see the love in the man’s eyes.

More about pigeon droppings and its uses: The scoop on pigeon poop!

Unfortunately, anyone outside of the UK cannot view the video. (I couldn’t find the video on YouTube.)

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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  • 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

After a long hard day at work Richard and I come home hoping to just sit back and relax for the evening. What are we met with upon our arrival? Only just the most excitable pigeon ever who’s been treading through his own droppings and making a right mess. Dear Elmo boy. He’s discovered the window ledge and spends most of his time there looking out into the garden at the feral pigeons, woodpigeons, squirrels, blackbirds and robins that visit the bird feeder. Unfortunately he doesn’t always poo over the side so he ends up walking through his droppings and staining his feet and the ledge. We’ll need to look into covering it with cloth to prevent him making such a mess.

So after cleaning Elmo’s mess (and trying to catch him to clean his feet before he walks through the entire flat) we are greeted by Georgie’s messy cage. Some days it is quite clean but other times she’s decided to redecorate with water and shredded newspaper (I applaud her efforts but ultimately have to tell her that it’s a tad bit outdated). Georgie is always equally happy to see us. She leaps at the bars and as soon as I pick her up she cooes and dances on the palm of my hand. Sweet.

The only other animal I’ve had that has shown the same amount of pleasure and excitement in seeing me when I come home has been my cairn terrier, Nyytti (which means ‘bundle’ in Finnish). She would go bananas and wiggle about in greeting, howling with all her might. Thinking about her makes me sad (since she died four years ago) but also content in knowing how much we loved each other and showed each other this daily. How lovely it is to be able to do that without any misunderstandings, hesitations or uncertainty!

Human beings are very complicated and miscommunication is all too common. With my dog it was very easy and simple: “I love you, Nyytti, and I let you know this by caring for you properly, by giving you affection, by understanding what you need when you need it, and by accepting your faults. And you love me and let me know this by giving me your affections, your desire to be with me, your instincts for knowing my emotions and how to react, and ultimately accepting my faults.” I like to think that Richard and I have this sort of understanding. Naive or just plain animal love? :)

I guess dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves, and I think pigeons do too. Elmo and George show us that they are happy we are home and that they love us and we do the same. Nothing beats that excited joyous greeting when you come home, be it from a dog or a pigeon. And with any luck you may receive such a greeting from another human being.

Georgie’s second egg was laid today. Sometimes she lays them later in the day but this time she laid it before we got home from work. We got home and saw Georgie sitting on her eggs contently. A very sweet sight.

When George is in egg-laying or incubating mode a few things occur. First she gets restless and also a bit defensive of her nest area. Anyone sitting next to her has to be aware that she may stand up and attack you for no apparent reason (well, Georgie’s got her reasons, we just don’t know them. I just think she gets a bit moody!).

Next, she poos massive and sometimes very stinky poos. When she’s incubating George often won’t poo in the cage – often prefering for me to take her out of her cage and let her walk about and then she’ll let one out. Since they are sometimes quite runny at this time I have kitchen roll at the ready to catch the poo before it hits the floor. It’s an easy way to keep the place clean because she’ll only poo big ones a few times a day so I know when to be ready to catch them. (Me being overindulgent? Never! :) )

Another behaviour of George’s is to take seed from her food bowl and carry them to her nest where she’ll strategically place them around her eggs. I’ll come home from work to find more seed in her nest than in her bowl!! :) Strange girl! (She does have soft shredded paper to line her nest.)

The main thing with Georgie in her maternal mood is to let her do her thing. If we disturb her too much she gets angry and annoyed, but we also have to be aware of her needs, e.g. when she wants to come out for a walk. Before we got her her nest Georgie used to nest in any soft material she could find on the sofa and she didn’t like to be away from her eggs for long so I couldn’t put her back in her cage when we went to work. We had to put the cage around her on the sofa but the mess she’d make was too much. I’m very happy we got her the guinea-pig nest which Georgie loves and is happy to sit on in her cage.

I don’t think Georgie would make a good mother because of her disability, but she sure gives it her best shot at incubating unfertilised eggs. :)

I think the most common question we get when we tell someone we have pigeons living in our flat is “Don’t they poo everywhere?”

The answer is “Yes”, of course. One of the most frequent complaints against feral pigeons is that they damage buildings with their droppings, so it’s only fair to assume that they’d do the same indoors. But we’re talking about two pigeons, not a hundred. Once you’ve wiped the poo away (with the help of a carpet cleaner spray) there is no stain left and our floors and furniture remain clean. I have to admit it does take a bit of energy to be on constant ‘poo patrol’. Nothing gets on my nerves more than stepping onto a poo booby trap, however, to us it is a small price to pay to have two wonderful animals living with us. Having pets always has drawbacks (e.g. less free time, more expense during holiday time, vet bills, death) but we cannot imagine living without animals – they are such an important part of our lives.

Anyway, back to pigeon poo. After surfing the net for pigeon related things I stumbled across a website that has pigeon and chicken nappies (a.k.a. diapers). I had heard about nappies for parrots but I didn’t think anyone had made any for pigeons. The website advertise an array of nappy designs and boasts success in their use, but I’m a bit sceptical. Why you ask? Well because we previously bought a bird harness with a lead so we could take Georgie and Elmo out for a ‘walk’ without them flying off and getting lost or injured, however, neither pigeon would co-operate with it on.

First we tried Georgie. After figuring out which wing goes through which strap we fitted the harness and stood back to admire it. It’s bright blue, fits around the wings and under the body and not that intrusive, but Georgie just laid on her side like dead wood. She didn’t move for a while and when she eventually did she flopped about like a fish out of water – a very strange behaviour to us but it was clear that she was not happy with the harness. So we took it off and didn’t try again till a few months later, however, with the same results.

Elmo had a similar reaction. First he was stock still, then he looked down at the harness and tried to run away from it. Hard to do when the thing was strapped to him but he made a good attempt. We then put the harness on Dora. She wasn’t impressed either and kept getting her foot stuck as she tried to wriggle out of it.

So the harness was a huge failure much to our disappointment. Since Elmo cannot fly properly we can take him out for a while but have to watch him carefully. Georgie can fly up in the air but not intentionally forward, however, we have to put her in a wire run just in case (Georgie is known to take off suddenly and very quickly so we cannot risk it).

With the harness scenario in mind my thoughts on the pigeon nappy aren’t hugely optimistic. It would be great if Elmo and Georgie didn’t mind having one on for a few hours a day but somehow I doubt that’ll be the case. We may order a pigeon nappy just to satisfy our ‘what if?’ thoughts. More on this if we do.

Ps. For those of you who are curious about the pigeon nappy, the website I found is: http://www.birdwearonline.net/index.html