Tuesday, 3 February 2015

What To Do About The Pigeons? (...or Be More Bee.)

In my garden the pigeons are definitely the top 0.1% ( except for when the squirrels are around, swinging upside down from the feeders and helping themselves to nuts, but I seem to be able to forgive them their occasional foraying raid, at least they're cute and crafty.)

However, the two pigeons that have taken residence in my garden are a big drain on my emotional resources. I get very cross when I see them strutting around, policing the bottom of the feeders, dive- bombing the smaller birds (and each other) and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to reduce their dominance over the resources. I have nailed tacks to the top of the bird table and carefully spaced the feeders so they can't reach them in an attempt to ring-fence some of the food for tits, finches, robins and sparrows and all the diverse bird life that's out there, but to very little avail. The food might be there but the best any of the other birds seem to be able to do is a quick snatch and grab before the big boys get to them. I can see them out there now, sitting on the fence watching over their domain, stuffed full of seed. I'm not kidding, I've seen them struggle to take off because they've eaten so much and still find the energy to chase the other birds away.

So, desperate to get a little "feel-good" back about my garden I have decided to investigate bee-keeping. I know it won't solve my pigeon problem but apparently it is quite feasible to site hives in suburban gardens and there might even be a very small income stream to be developed. However, the main benefit for me
would be the feeling that I'm doing something to help the environment and watching all that cooperation going on in the process. Honey bees display an extreme form of social interaction which is described as eusocial, every individual has a role and they all work together to achieve a common goal. How less like the pigeons could that be?

The survival of the fittest has worked for both these models of behaviour, but I would guess that as far as economical growth and global human well-being goes, it will eventually be proved that we have drifted a little too far towards rewarding the inner pigeon, instead of developing the inner bee. I recognise that this is a crude metaphor but it does provide food for thought. Human wellbeing and prosperity has a very definite social aspect and I suspect the 0.1% will find it harder to find happiness if we move much further down the road we are currently travelling.

In the meantime I'm hoping to get me some bees and introduce a little harmony to offset all that pigeon power.

(btw does anyone have a cunning plan to "encourage" them to go elsewhere?)

Picture courtesy of http://www.thebeeskneesdesignbureau.com/


  1. I like this, a few more people need to subdue their inner pigeon :)

    I have no idea what you could do, but my father in law has the same problem at his. Pigeons are brutal. We get loads of Seagulls near us...

    Keeping bees would be ace, and I plan to once we get a bit more of a garden. Definitely post here on how you get on with the bees :)

    Mr Z

    1. Thanks Mr Z. The bees are definitely in my long term plan for my garden but I would want to make sure I can do it properly so lots of research needed.

      This year's more immediate project is my pond which has been dug and sunk but needs planting up when the weather gets a bit better.

  2. Sorry to hear about your pigeon problem, Cerridwen. We have a pair of fat pigeons too but they're quite timid (compared to the magpies), which could partly be due to the fact we have a sparrowhawk in the area which has downed a couple of pigeons (twice in my garden...the first time, I just found a huge pile of feathers where the hawk had plucked the hapless pigeon!)

    Seems like the best way is to try and rig it so that that only small birds can get to the food, via some sort of barrier of some sort, otherwise you risk turning away all birds, including the ones you want to feed!

    As for beekeeping - I actually read up a little about it, not because I fancy doing it myself, but because a colleague had just been on a beekeeping course and was really enthusiastic when he told me about it! Was really interesting, stuff about the queen etc.

    Good luck with it, as I said, it's not something I'd go for but bees = good! :-)

    1. Thanks weenie. I haven't heard of sparrowhawks going in for the kill in gardens before but there does seem to be a lot more of them around than there used to be. I don't exactly wish for the same fate for my pigeons but it would solve my problem :-) (Until the next ones came along I suppose).

      I have one of those pole feeders. The pigeons can't actually get to the top dispensers but they seem to deter the other birds from feeding just by their presence and the way they flap around the garden as if they own it.

      I would love to keep bees and have got more interested the more I have read about it. My main problem would be where to site the hive so that it doesn't disturb the neighbours. We have young kids in the house whose garden runs next to ours along the bottom where the natural place for a hive would be and I wouldn't want them scaring. I think there's a way of enclosing things so that the bees have to fly straight up and out of garden "airspace" so I'm looking into that.

  3. I too have a pigeon problem. They really wind me up, eating all the food and defecating in great proportions everywhere!

    After trying a few 'passive' tactics I resorted to borrowing an air rifle from a friend in an attempt to 'persuade' the pigeons to depart. Unfortunately the only thing this achieved was a broken window (rebound off a wall...very unlucky) and an angry wife. Both the pigeons and I survived to live an other day...

    The bee project sounds awesome...

    1. Hi UTMT, your air pistol tactic was exactly what my husband would like to try too :-)

      But see below - there may be help for us yet.

  4. I have a "cage" for the food that I put out on the ground. They come in two differnet mesh sizes according to which birds you want to let in/keep out. I neded to keep out the jackdaws who were eating us/the other birds out of house and home. Also the cages help protect the ground feeding birds from cats.

    The RSPB sell them:

    Good luck!

    1. Great - many thanks. This sounds ideal. I'm putting one on my birthday wishlist (it's next month so I won't have long to wait.)

      Once the pigeons get the idea that there's nothing for them hopefully they will go away and leave us all in peace. :-)

  5. You can nail your pigeon problem as far as them getting the food :) I have managed to get more sparrows, tits and finches without losing too much to pigeons. Use the fact that pigeons are clumsy devils and they are lazy - they wake up late compared to many smaller birds.

    The various cages etc that the RSPB sell for tube feeders work great. Sparrows and tits can access these, though robins and dunnocks never seem to go into something caged. Those guys seem to be ground feeders.

    Pigeons aren't very manoeuvrable so for the blackbirds I use a small bird table about 4" x 4". Also put a low roof over the bird table - the idea is shown in


    but you don't need an outrageously dear plastic dome - a piece of wood as a roof is good enough. Lower the roof until the pigeons can't land right.

    Never screw a round tray under a tube seed/nut feeder. Pigeons struggle to stay on a seed feeder but a tray makes a fantastic pigeon-perch! The pigeons (and robins, sparrows and dunnocks) will find some of the spilled seed from the ground, but most of it will be out of reach.

    The thrush family has relatively large eyes so they start feeding early so by putting out the small fat shavings the blackbirds and robins get them before the pigeons wake up. I put them out the night before so I don't have to get up early ;) Getting the amount of food right for your local density of blackbirds means there's not much left by the time the late-rising pigeons arrive.

    The ground cage works a treat and helps with cat problems too!

    Tube feeder cages and removing the seed trays gave me the biggest win. You can beat the enemy here!

  6. Thanks for the tips ermine.

    I never realised that some birds woke up before others but, you're quite right, wikipedia has blackbirds and robins as the front runners in the dawn chorus. I love the idea of feeding them before the pigeons turn up (and hopefully leave disappointed).

    I'm going to start by somehow raising the floor on my roofed birdtable so that the pigeons can't get in there any more and then do some shopping on the RSPB site. Let battle commence.

    1. The BTO Early Bird survey http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/about/background/projects/shortest-day-survey/results gives you the roll call ;) The advantage is about a quarter of an hour in theory but more in practice

      In urban areas you have a slightly higher advantage because your blackbirds and robins are likely to be roosting very local whereas in my case the woodpigeons roost about a quarter of a mile away, so they are later than the figures in the BTO survey as they have to get here. WPs are also relatively timid so if blackbirds are on the case they often don't push them off despite being ginormous. The trick is to put a small enough amount of blackbird food like fat pellets in the evening for most of it to get snarfed before the enemy gets there

      The RSPB site is great but they do target the Guardian readers among us with their prices. Wilkinsons is a good place for bird paraphernalia


      and Aldi aren't bad either. Hopefully you shouldn't need to buy too much more gear, it's easy to spend a fortune on the RSPB site ;)

      Pigeons don't seem to like to move their heads down without surround vision so you could screw battens to the risers supporting the roof to force them down. Hopefully you have the odd sprawk to take 'em out though it'll have to be a female to take down a pigeon

  7. Thanks for the tips ermine (though I'm not sure I would want the "red in tooth and claw" side of things amongst my sweet peas :-) - great as a deterrent it might be).

    I'll take a look at alternatives to the RSPB site as I'm sure they hike the prices like you say. However, If I do end up buying from them at least some of the extra should be going to a good cause.

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