Feeding the Pigeons

July 2017

Toronto’s pigeon population continues to grow right along with the city’s condo population. Signs of this can be seen throughout the city. Broadview subway station bird feeders are overrun with pigeons which transit users struggle to avoid. In St. Lawrence Market pigeons can be found in parks and on roofs, trees and sidewalks.

Toronto pigeons are descendants of domestic birds brought over by early settlers. They are skilled navigators, able to fly 70 kilometres per hour and up to 1,000 kilometres, that were used during wartime by the military to carry messages across enemy lines.

To pigeons our high-rise condo buildings resemble ancient cliff faces where their ancestors made their homes. They like to nest on balconies or congregate where condo residents leave food for them. This becomes a problem for residents on neighbouring balconies where pigeons will also congregate. Condo buildings preferred by pigeons can become inundated with these birds, their eggs and excrement.

Condo residents should avoid feeding pigeons on their balcony. Trafalgar Square in London was so inundated with pigeons that a feeding ban was imposed in 2003.

Pigeons can carry and transmit up to 50 human and livestock diseases. Their excrement can damage car finishes; destroy wood, marble and stone; corrode metal beams; short out electrical equipment; and ruin outdoor furniture. Pigeon droppings stink and, even when dry, leave behind a residue that can be hard to remove.

It is best to keep your balcony free of pigeons, their eggs and droppings.

Once they settle on a nesting area pigeons will keep returning to it and their eggs. They don’t have much choice so even if you scare them off a number of times, they always seem to come back. Discouraging pigeons from returning to a nesting area requires removal of all nesting materials from the area and closing off any nooks they may find suitable for nesting.

Pigeons were just a minor problem for us until their numbers increased dramatically. Most home-made solutions for dealing with pigeons on condo balconies – strips of aluminum foil, wind chimes, balloons, water guns and plastic owl decoy – are ineffective. A more permanent solution is to install netting around balconies although this may only redirect pigeons to neighbouring balconies. For some this may be the only way to reclaim balcony space.