Tag Archives: vermin

Where do Feral Pigeons spend their days?

London’s biggest airborne pest, the feral pigeon, has recently become something of a film star. The evil Professor Moriaty, adversary to London’s most famous detective in the movie, “Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows”, has a habit of feeding the winged vermin in the city’s parks.

But when they’re not to be seen alongside the likes of Jared Harris, Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr. and Stephen Fry where do feral pigeons spend their days?

‘Rats with wings’ were not always pests

Today’s feral pigeon, or town pigeon, is descended from birds who were once bred in captivity, often for meat. This happened for thousands of years. Some of the world’s earliest writings, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics, mention the domestication of the Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon.

Over the centuries, millions of birds have escaped from captivity and formed huge colonies in our towns and cities. Trafalgar Square alone was home to around 35,000 birds before the Mayor of London took action to reduce their numbers.

A day in the life of a feral pigeon

As their name suggests, Rock Doves live on cliffs. Today’s tall buildings with their miles of ledges provide an attractive alternative to their feral pigeon descendants.

It’s here that birds begin the day, on some precarious perch or rooftop that’s not been coated in Pigeon Spikes or Netting. Some will be nesting, as pigeons can lay eggs at any time of year.

They like to nest in groups, if they can, with derelict buildings being favoured spots for housing a pigeon nursery. Both parents take turns at incubating the eggs, while their partners go in search of food.

Much of the pigeons’ food comes directly from the human inhabitants of the town or city. Some feed the birds deliberately, although this is increasingly discouraged. But many of us feed feral Pigeons by accident, by dropping pieces of food onto roads and pavements. They also eat berries, seeds and insects.

Pigeons can live for up to fifteen years in captivity. However, it’s unlikely they survive this long in the wild, with most feral pigeons probably dying within their first five years of life.

Feral pigeons pollute and damage

While pigeons help to keep our streets clean of food waste, they make plenty of mess of their own. Stonework, vehicle paintwork and the personal dignity of town and city dwellers are the daily victims of pigeon droppings.

Once prized as a quality fertilizer, pigeon excrement is not just unsightly, it’s also highly corrosive and a health hazard. The acids it contains will eat their way through paint, wood, steel and stone. Millions of pounds have been spent restoring historic buildings which had suffered major damage from a build-up of pigeon droppings.

Their waste, and the birds themselves, can also contain parasites and other sources of diseases. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the feral pigeon has been associated with the villainous Professor Moriaty on the silver screen, as both can present a rather nasty hazard to human health.

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Council Food Waste Recycling Tackles Pests and Pollution

Your household or business could be spending hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds on food that’s then thrown away. Apparently the average home bins food worth £50 every month. That’s a lot of pizza, pasta and peas being tossed away as rubbish, every day.

This mountain of edible waste creates its own problems. The decomposing mass is a huge source of pollution, pumping CO2 into the atmosphere as it rots down in landfills. More worryingly, for householders, it’s an enormous food source for a variety of insects and animals, attracting vermin and creating a pest control problem.

Fortunately, Borough councils are taking positive steps to introduce food waste recycling for at least some of London’s thousands of homes.

For example, the London Borough of Southwark has recently completed a trial collection of food waste from many homes. Considered a success, the pilot scheme has been continued beyond its initial six months and the Borough is now looking at extending it to other areas.

These collections take place weekly, partly as a pest control measure. While much of the discarded food is placed in secure plastic bins with lids, it still produces unpleasant smells as it begins to rot. The trend towards collecting rubbish once every two weeks is acceptable for dry rubbish, but by removing food waste weekly, councils are helping to deter pests attracted to the foul odours.

Southwark’s recycling scheme takes a broad range of food waste including meat and bones, rice and pasta and dairy products. This material is mixed with garden waste and composted on a commercial scale. By processing this in a controlled environment, exposure to pests is minimised and the outcome is a reusable material, compost, which can be sold back to consumers.

Other London Boroughs provide services similar to those being trialled by Southwark. Lambeth began a trial in 2009 which is slowly being extended across the borough. The City of London is also rolling out food waste collections. However, some areas, such as Kensington and Chelsea, are still without food recycling capabilities.

Businesses can’t take advantage of the free collection services provided by Borough councils. However, there are plenty of waste disposal firms eager to service their needs and all of these will be working towards recycling targets.

The most effective way to deal with food waste is to buy more carefully and throw less away. But there will always be some leftovers which require disposal in a way that avoids attracting the attention of pests.

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Tips for DIY Pest Control

Last week saw feline Larry catapulted into the national headlines, when he was appointed ‘Mouser to the Cabinet’ and moved into 10 Downing Street. (Did you spot our awful pun? Sorry, couldn’t resist it.)

That set us thinking about what you could do, at home or at work, to deter common pests.

1. Get a cat. This seems an obvious place to start. If it’s good enough for David Cameron’s rat problems, it’s good enough for yours. But not any old cat will do. Larry has a ‘high chase-drive and hunting instinct’, according to Downing Street.

Of course, if your main pest problem isn’t rats or mice, but something like woodworm or wasps, a cat won’t be much use. But stroking it will help bring down your stress levels, which is always a good thing.

2. Tidy up after yourself. Many pests are attracted to mess, particularly if it includes things they can eat. Rodents, Cockroaches, pigeons, Flies and Fleas all thrive in dirty, untidy settings. The other really good thing about tidying up is that it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

3. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Your eyes are the best pest detectors we know of. Even if the vermin remain out of sight they often leave evidence you should spot – such as droppings, itchy bite marks, or small holes. If something suggests there’s a potential problem you should act quickly before it becomes more serious.

4. Deter rather than destroy. It’s better to keep pests away than to clean up after them. A good place to start is by stopping up any small holes that they might use to come inside your home or workplace. If birds, particularly Feral Pigeons, are a problem you could install anti-roosting Bird Spikes or Netting.

Some pests are put off by noise. If you think Rats or Mice might be snuggling down in your compost bins, give the sides a sharp whack with a stick when you pass – they don’t like noisy neighbours.

5. Call a professional. Yes, we know this isn’t strictly a DIY tip, but if there’s a problem you need help with, it’ll be you that needs to make the call!

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