How Many Pigeons Do You See?

This Is What I See In My Backyard.


This Is What My Neighbors See.

St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy.

I received an anonymous letter:

            May 24, 2021

            To: Neighbor at ………

            Re: Pigeons

            Over the past few months, we have noticed an increase in pigeons which are creating a nuisance in the community.

            As a bird lover, I’m sure you understand that pigeons are altering the ecosystem. Pigeons run counter to ecology and conservation. These birds are invasive and are having a negative impact on our community.

            Over the past month, we have begun cleaning homes that are near yours. In trying to resolve this issue, we have worked to identify where the pigeons are coming from. On numerous occasions, we have observed pigeons feeding in your back yard then flying to neighboring homes to nest.

             This weekend we removed approximately 25 pounds of pigeon feces from the top of one home that neighbors yours. The pigeons are nesting in the HVAC units and damaging stucco with their feces.

            In addition, the pigeon feces is (sic) causing health issues for those of us with breathing issues.

            We are respectfully asking you stop feeding the birds for a short period to eliminate the pigeons and look for other ways to feed small birds.

            Thank you in advance for your consideration and attention to this issue! We THANK YOU!!!

Now if this letter had not been sent anonymously, I would have responded directly, attending to each of the charges. I then considered posting this note on the Next Door Neighbor Website. However, after reading previous comments about bird poop, the audience takes the subject too seriously. And as the owner of my local Wild Birds Unlimited store reflected, “If you have water or trees, you will have birds.”

Generally, when I look in my backyard there are either no pigeons, or two to four. No way could those birds produce 25 lbs. of bird feces. And by the way, did my accusers weigh the bags? And why? And can they tell the difference between pigeon poop and dove poop?  

As for the pigeon feces causing health issues, I have severe asthma, but I certainly can’t pin it on the poor pathetic pigeons.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, fresh bird droppings have not been shown to present a health risk. They quote the CDC as saying that fresh bird droppings on surfaces such as sidewalks and windowsills have not been shown to present a health risk. Of course, they recommend that people avoid contact with any animal droppings but add that good hygiene such as washing hands and leaving shoes at the door, are adequate preventions if someone accidentally comes into contact with animal droppings.

Pigeons are not altering the ecosystem. They serve as food for peregrine falcons, hawks, foxes and martins. They also maintain and regulate insect species and weeds. Additionally, they play a part in seed dispersal by eating seeds and distributing them. Pigeons regulate insect populations as they are omnivores eating both plant and animal matter. And their poop is a great fertilizer.

So do I feel guilty as charged? Not enough to stop feeding them. And how can I discriminate against the pigeons and doves (sometimes called desert rats) and only feed the finches and quail? Besides, those pigeons and doves desperately try daily to access the finch feeders. They end up eating what the smaller birds spill on the ground.

I am sympathetic to neighbors having to remove bird droppings from the air conditioners or on their roofs. However, I do not feel culpable for this. I was advised that the city tried to get rid of the pigeons on the downtown plaza and somehow have gotten them to relocate in this general area. For that, I am not responsible.

I am willing to take responsibility for my actions and inactions. In this case, however, had the complaining neighbor been enough of a mensch to confront me directly, we could have had a meaningful discussion.

They say, ” J’Accuse?” I plead, “Not Guilty.”

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is also a bird lover. And although she prefers just feeding the quail, finches, and thrashers, she cannot discriminate against the doves and pigeons and other undesirables.


Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture: flpcgallery.org