Editor’s Note: The following was adapted from Techletter, a biweekly publication from Pinto & Associates, Mechanicsville, Md. To subscribe, visit www.techletter.com or call 301/884-3020.
Bird control measures such as bird proofing will be most effective if most of the pigeons are removed first by trapping. Where a colony of pigeons is roosting or feeding in a confined and isolated area, trapping can be the primary control tactic.
Types of Traps. Pigeon traps have one-way entrances: the pigeons push the doors in to enter the trap but they can’t get out again. Pigeon traps vary greatly in size — from a large walk-in trap, 4 to 6 feet high, designed to be taken apart and moved — to a low-profile trap about 8 inches high and 2 to 3 feet long. Depending on size, low-profile traps can hold 15 to 30 pigeons at a time.
Trap Placement. Place traps where pigeons commonly roost or feed, but in inconspicuous or relatively inaccessible places where traps are not likely to be vandalized. Place them in a location where pigeons can find them but that is not frequented by people, pets or wild animals. Place traps out of sight of the public and residents of the building. The typical trapping site is on a building’s flat roof (some traps can be used on slanted roofs). It may be possible to block or shield the traps from view using roof structures such as HVAC units. The basic rule of thumb is one trap for every 50 pigeons.
Feeding areas are the best trap sites but these are rarely on the same property as roosting sites. Mostly you’ll be working in roosting and loafing sites on the customer’s property. The most difficult part of trapping in these sites is getting the birds to feed in a non-feeding area so that they will follow the bait to the trap.
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The best time to trap pigeons is in the winter when their food is scarce. Rooftops that have dripping water from cooling towers or air conditioning units are often good trapping sites in summer. Some traps have removable shade screens that attract and protect the birds in summer.
Trap placement is important and moving an inactive trap just 10 to 15 feet away may improve catches significantly.
Choosing a Food Bait. Whole corn is generally the preferred bait because most smaller, non-target birds cannot feed on the large kernels. Other grains, popcorn, sunflower seeds, peas, greens, dried bread, fig bars or peanuts also can be effective if the birds are feeding on similar food. Once a few birds have been trapped, putting different foods in with the birds will show you which bait they prefer.
Prebaiting. For several days at the beginning of the pigeon trapping program, scatter small quantities of bait in multiple sites to determine the best trap location(s). At each follow-up visit, reduce these feeding areas to the most active sites. Once the birds are feeding, place the traps unset with the door tied or propped open. Scatter bait up to the trap entrance and place bait and water inside (a chicken watering fountain is ideal). Be sure that you place most of the bait inside the traps.
Set the Traps. Once the pigeons have gotten used to the unset traps and are calmly entering them to feed (this could take a week), untie the doors and set the traps. After you’ve trapped some pigeons, leave one or two live “decoy” birds in the trap to draw other birds in. Remove all other trapped birds regularly. Otherwise, other pigeons will be scared off by too many fluttering, trapped pigeons in the trap. Try to keep a low profile when checking and emptying traps. A typical trapping program is at least three service visits a week for at least eight weeks. If trap shyness develops, leave traps open for two to three days and then reset again for four to five days.
Since pigeons can fly great distances and find their way home, trap and release is not a good idea as part of the program. In most cases, trapped birds should be humanely destroyed. Release any non-target birds.
Indoor Trapping. Sometimes indoor roosting sites can be used as a giant trap. Pigeons often use attics, rooftop elevator houses or empty floors of poorly maintained structures as nest and roost sites. By screening all but one or two entrances, these areas can be made into a giant trap. Late in the evening (after about a two-week acclimation period), these last entrances can be closed off after the pigeons have settled down for the night. The trapped birds can then be captured by hand or with a hand net, or even regular pigeon traps.
Editor’s note: Regulations on trapping pigeons vary from state to state. Consult your state or federal fish and wildlife office before you begin a trapping program.
The authors are co-owners of Pinto & Associates, Mechanicsville, Md.