A Definitive Guide to the Five Main Types of Pigeon

There are hundreds of different types of pigeons and doves across the world, below we have named those varieties that rank among the most common and known to the UK. We’ll begin with the broader terminology and groupings for pigeons.

Name: King Pigeon

Two Beautiful White Pigeons On The Ground
  • Size – Large
  • Weight – 900g+
  • Colour – Predominantly white
  • Wild? – No, bred for food
  • Lifespan – Varies, typically between 3 – 10 years depending on captivity conditions
  • Located – Southern Mexico and Central America

King pigeons are specifically bred for food for us to eat. They are one of the largest species of pigeon but they are very unlikely to fare well in the wild. King pigeons struggle to fly due to their size and genetic problems caused by excessive breeding. Most king pigeons are bought as pets, as they are very mild-mannered and easy to care for. They are not varied in colour, most of which are blue or white.

Name: Racing and Homing Pigeons

Painted Racing Pigeons
  • Size – Medium
  • Weight – 200-400g+
  • Colour – A variety, but typically blue, similar to wild pigeons
  • Wild? – Yes, but can be caught and trained for homing purposes
  • Lifespan – Typically between 5 – 15 years depending on environmental factors and breeding
  • Located – Columbia (originally) but can be bred almost anywhere

Homing pigeons are similar to domestic pigeons but have a homing ability. Originally derived from rock pigeons, homing and racing pigeons have an in-built homing system that allows them to travel or be taken great distances while being able to remember and return to their original residence. In terms of their colour, there’s not much variety – racing pigeons are simply domesticated pigeons bred and trained for racing. 

Name: Fancy Pigeon

Jacobin pigeon also known as a fancy pigeon or capucin pigeon
  • Size – Small to medium
  • Weight – 200-400g+
  • Colour – A wide variety 
  • Wild? – No, they are bred for domestic use
  • Lifespan – Typically between 5 – 10 years 
  • Located – Germany

As their names suggests, fancy pigeons are specialised breeds that are bred for several uses. Some people will breed fancy pigeons to showcase at competitions, others may simply breed them to sell or keep as extravagant pets. Fancy pigeons come in many varieties, including pouters, tumblers and owls. Fancy pigeons require high levels of personal upkeep to ensure their coats remain healthy.

Name: Feral Pigeon

Feral Pigeon or Rock Dove
  • Size – Small to medium
  • Weight – 300-500g+
  • Colour – Usually blue with a hint of purple
  • Wild? – Yes, derived from rock pigeons
  • Lifespan – Typically between 5 – 10 years depending on several environmental factors 
  • Located – All over the UK

By far the most common type of pigeon, feral pigeons can be found throughout the UK, dominating many of our busiest towns and cities. Originally derived from rock and cliff pigeons, they have swiftly adapted to our urban way of living and thrive in our communities. 

Despite not causing any immediate threat to our way of living, feral pigeons can cause a number of problems in larger numbers – not least health concerns. Crowding, pigeon droppings and hygiene are among the main concerns, problems that our team at AMES Group deal with on a daily basis.

Name: Band-tailed Pigeon

Laughing Neck Dove On Tree Branch Under Sunrays On A Summer Morning
  • Size – Medium, longer than other pigeons
  • Weight – 400-600g+
  • Colour – Grey with a white band across the back of their head
  • Wild? – Yes
  • Lifespan – Typically between 5 – 12 years 
  • Located – North America

This type of pigeon gets their name from their long, often grey banded tail. They’re slightly taller than the average feral pigeon and most have a distinguishable white band on the back of their neck. They typically live in forests and woodlands (much like wood pigeons) and are very rarely seen in urban environments (unlike feral pigeons). Their diet revolves around foods they forage in the woodlands; berries, nuts and small insects being core inclusions. 

Suffering from Pigeon Problems?

If you find that pigeons are causing a problem in your home or commercial property, AMES Group can help. We specialise in providing humane pigeon removal and deterrent services across the UK. For all pigeon and problem bird-related issues, contact AMES Group today.

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FAQs

Are pigeons intelligent?

Pigeons are renowned as one of the most intelligent bird species on the planet. Pigeons can be trained to deliver messages, race for sport and even save lives at sea. They typically fall behind in the intelligence scale, however, to ravens and crows.

Where did pigeons originally come from?

Pigeons were originally found in Europe, North Africa and parts of Western Asia. Now, pigeons can be found across multiple continents and have a projected population of around 15 – 30 million in Europe.

Do pigeons have facial recognition qualities?

Pigeons, like crows, are thought to be able to remember faces, especially if they are harmed by that person. Like crows, pigeons seem able to remember different faces, regardless of whether the person changes their clothing.

How do pigeons find their way back onto my property?

Pigeons have an innate homing ability that allows them to retrace their flight path and return to their nest. Scientists believe this is because they can sense the Earth’s magnetic fields. No matter how much you shoo a pigeon, they will be able to find their way home. The only way you can successfully relocate a pigeon is through a structured process carried out by pest control experts.

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Do Pigeons Carry Diseases?

Pigeons in the street

Feral pigeons dominate most of our biggest towns, cities and urban areas and can not only become a nuisance regarding crowding, but they also carry a risk of transmitting and spreading diseases and viruses to humans. 

Pigeons are capable of carrying harmful diseases in the same way as the common rat, which is why it’s important to safely rid and deter pigeons from entering your commercial or domestic property if you have a pigeon problem. 

Can Pigeons Carry Diseases?

Yes, pigeons carry a number of diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans. Unlike most other birds, pigeons nest in their own faeces, which attracts mites and increases the transmittance of other diseases. 

The different types of diseases pigeons carry have been detailed below:

  • E. coli. – this disease occurs when pigeon droppings find their way into our water or food sources, which become contaminated. When humans consume E Coli-contaminated food and water, it can result in nausea, fever and cramps. 
  • St Louis encephalitis – when mosquitoes feed on the blood of an infected bird, they carry the pathogen that’s responsible for spreading St Louis encephalitis. While this disease won’t cause too much trouble to younger people, it can be particularly dangerous to adults over 60. Symptoms of St Louis encephalitis include drowsiness, fever and headaches. 
  • Histoplasmosis – a respiratory disease that occurs when fungus grows inside pigeon droppings. If left untreated, histoplasmosis can be fatal.
  • Candidiasis – another respiratory disease that is caused by fungus infecting the droppings. This disease can affect any or a variety of areas, including the mouth, skin, respiratory system and intestines. This disease is thought to occur mainly, or at least have a greater presence, in women. 
  • Salmonella – commonly referred to as “food poisoning”, salmonella occurs when infected droppings infect food. Transmission can be subtle, as when droppings turn to dust are blown into food and water sources. 
  • Cryptococcosis – another disease caused by yeast found in the intestinal tract of pigeons and starlings. It can cause problems with the central nervous system if left untreated. 

In addition to the above, pigeons are frequently exposed to other creatures and insects that can transmit diseases. These creatures are known as ectoparasites and can carry several human pathogens. The ectoparasites can hitch a ride on the pigeons and so come in contact with people. Although that sounds concerning, only about two-thirds will cause harm to our general health, with the rest causing minor problems, such as itching and scratching.

Ectoparasites that are associated with pigeons include:

  • Bed bugs – bed bugs are one of the most nuisance pests to deal with. They are capable of costing thousands of pounds worth of damage and are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Bed bugs are able to cause anaemia in some humans. Pigeons, starlings and some other small birds are known to carry bed bugs
  • Chicken mites – capable of causing dermatitis and acariasis, both of which cause mild flaking of the skin. While it’s uncommon that chicken mites attack humans, they may do so if they come into close contact with them. This happens through contact with birds such as pigeons and house sparrows.
  • Yellow mealworms – although not found in the UK, yellow mealworms rank among the most common ectoparasites in the USA. They live inside pigeon nests and can find their way into our food.
  • West Nile virus – although not directly transmissible from birds to humans, if a human is bitten by a mosquito who has sucked the blood from an infected bird, they may get West Nile virus. Symptoms include fever, flu-like illness,  aches and pains as well as fatigue. In some cases, this can last for up to a week or several months. 

How Do Pigeons Spread Disease?

In almost all cases, pigeons transmit diseases to humans through faecal matter (dry droppings). While it’s very uncommon for us to come into direct contact with pigeon droppings and receive any disease or virus this way, droppings that have been left to dry out are where the problems begin. Dry droppings that are infected with bacteria can enter our airways when they’ve been left on windowsills, rooftops, cars and other areas we frequently come into contact with. 

Droppings eventually turn into a powder form, which becomes easier to inhale. When inhaled, the pathogens can infect and cause disease in humans. 

Are Pigeons the Most Disease-ridden Birds?

Yes, pigeons actually carry the highest number of diseases in comparison to any other bird species. Pigeons also carry more diseases than rats, with their droppings being one of the core causes of disease. They also carry bird mites, which are extremely common among all pigeons.

Do You Have a Pigeon Problem?

Pigeons are responsible for a number of potentially fatal diseases that can be transmitted to humans through poor hygiene and pest control problems. AMES Group provides fast, effective and certified bird control services to alleviate the threat of pigeon-based diseases. Contact our team today to get rid of pigeons and keep your property safe.

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How to Get Rid of Pigeons in Buildings and Gardens

Pigeons scared off bus shelter roof

Pigeons are commonly found in urban areas and will nest in buildings, roofs, balconies and trees across our towns and cities. Finding a pigeon, or multiple pigeons, nesting in a building is very common but leaving them to continue nesting can cause a number of problems. 

Below, we have outlined the most effective ways to get rid of all pigeon types, including wood pigeons, feral pigeons and other small wild birds from any commercial or domestic building.

1: Trapping and Relocating 

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in buildings? – Yes

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in gardens? – Yes

How long does it take? – anywhere up to one month to remove all pigeons from the building

Pigeon trapping is one of the most effective ways to get rid of pigeons in any domestic or commercial environment. Pigeons have a genetic homing instinct which can make them particularly hard to deter. However, our certified pest control technicians are able to employ a structured programme that can remove up to 70% of a pigeon community (which takes around 18 months to recover). 

This trapping method creates disorientation within the pigeon community, as it focuses on removing dominant birds and relocating them elsewhere. In turn, this disperses the pigeon population and forces other pigeons to follow suit or simply disband. This technique is humanely performed by AMES Group and focuses on removing both pigeons, their nests and their eggs in a safe and controlled manner.

2: Bird and Egg Nest Removal

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in buildings? – Yes

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in gardens? – Yes

How long does it take? – typically up to a week, depending on the number of nests

Egg nest removal is another effective way to get rid of pigeons, but this method must be carried out by trained pest control professionals. Removal of pigeons nests and eggs means they will be unable to raise their young in this environment and they are unlikely to return as they will deem this area unsuitable to raise young. 

Learn more about our alternative bird and pigeon controlling methods.

3: Bird Scarers

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in buildings? – Yes, but only outside of the building

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in gardens? – Yes

How long does it take? – immediate effect

Bird scarers can be an effective way to get rid of and deter pigeons from returning to almost any outdoor area. As their name suggests, bird scarers are designed to scare away problem birds such as pigeons, starlings, gulls and more. They can come in many forms, such as a large statue of an owl, or ones that are tied to an object and mimic the flight of a predatory bird. By replicating the physical presence and flight path of predator birds, bird scarers naturally deter pigeons from nesting in your garden.

4: Bird Spikes

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in buildings? – Yes

Can this method be used to get rid of pigeons in gardens? – Yes

How long does it take? – once applied, bird spikes will stop pigeons from returning to this location and deter others from nesting and perching

Bird spikes rank among the most common and effective ways to get rid of pigeons from any building. The spikes work by stopping pigeons from roosting, nesting and even perching on ledges and any targeted area around the building. They can be made of plastic or metal and come in strips that can be cut or bought to specified measurements. Bird spikes can be placed anywhere and they are very easy to install. You will first need to identify where the pigeons are, remove them via a certified pest control technician (or other means mentioned in this article) and then fix the spikes into the specified area.

Spikes essentially deter pigeons in a safe and humane manner. However, if the pigeon(s) have already nested, spikes won’t help unless you remove the nest and insert spikes in its place.

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Other Methods

5: Ultrasonic

Ultrasonic pigeon deterrents are relatively new and their effectiveness is highly questioned in the pest control world. Although they may offer positive results in first instances, pigeons and other problem birds are able to quickly acclimate to the noise. While ultrasonic is used in larger-scale commercial areas such as airports (and with positive effects), they are not well-suited to smaller commercial and domestic environments.  

6: Low-level Shock Strap Systems

Not as popular or tried and tested as other methods, these systems work similarly to bird spikes by not allowing the pigeons to nest or perch in certain areas. The straps give a very minor electric shock to the pigeon, alerting them that this is not a safe area to be. 

7: Controlled Shooting

Bird shooting can only be carried out by trained professionals and in accordance with the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. AMES Group are certified to carry-out such controlled shootings if and when required. 

8: Bird Netting

Bird netting is another popular method for deterring pigeons from nesting in both domestic and commercial environments. However, while it is effective at deterring birds, you will first need to get rid of the pigeons. Netting is commonly used in outdoor areas such as cafes and restaurants to stop birds from stealing food or generally disturbing the public (ideal for seaside cafes, bars and restaurants). Bird netting can also be used to stop pigeons from accessing and damaging crops in gardens.

AMES Group provides a comprehensive and effective bird netting service

For Commercial or Large-scale Pigeon Problems in the UK, Contact AMES Group Today

While the above methods for getting rid of pigeons may prove useful in certain scenarios, if you’re suffering from a severe infestation or crowding, you may require professional intervention. This is where AMES Group can help. We employ a range of pigeon deterrent methods that safely move and relocate pigeons without hurting them. These methods are typically fast, cost-effective and minimally invasive.

Contact our team, explain the specific problem you have and one of our pest control experts will be able to help. 

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What Do Pigeons Eat? The Definitive Pigeon Food Guide

City pigeons in the street

Pigeons are wild birds that typically survive on a mixture of different foods. Whether they are wild or domesticated, all pigeons have roughly the same diet of seeds, small insects and even small lizards. As bird control specialists in the UK, we’re able to provide accurate and helpful information regarding pigeon diets and lifestyles. Below, we’ll explore some of their most common dietary foods and habits and what they can’t eat and shouldn’t be fed.

What Do Pigeons Eat?

Generally speaking, the pigeons that dominate our cities and urban environments will eat almost anything, from insects to leftover food we throw out. Wild pigeons will eat whatever nature throws their way. Again, this includes insects such as worms and ants, as well as seeds, fruits, berries and vegetables.

Despite originally living in coastal areas, forests, gardens and cliffed areas, these pigeons have now adapted to thrive in our settlements; specifically towns and cities. 

A Closer Look At What Wild Pigeons Eat

Unlike urban pigeons, wild pigeons have access to a much healthier diet. Wild pigeons typically live in forests and coastal areas, so their diet depends entirely on what nature provides them with. The most common foods they will have access to include:

  • Berries
  • Seeds
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Grit (for digestion purposes)
  • Plants
  • Vegetation
  • And fresh water

Although wild pigeons are natural herbivores, it’s not uncommon for them to stray from their herbivorous diet if necessary. Pigeons will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough, which can see them eat insects, spiders and even lizards. Their diet also demands protein and fat to remain healthy, whether that’s from nuts, fruits or other animals. They do not have a “favourite food” but they enjoy eating seeds, nuts and vegetables more than anything else.

What Do Pigeons Eat in Urban Areas?

Pigeons have very successfully adapted to our urban environments and are able to nest, feed and thrive in our busiest towns and cities. However, when it comes to their diet and living situations, they aren’t as lucky as wild pigeons. Urban pigeons live on whatever they can find and their diet covers almost anything, including leftover food we throw away/drop. This includes:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Meat and fish
  • Confectionary (chocolates, sweets, etc.)

The reason these types of pigeons can eat what we eat is through decades of adaptation and evolution. It’s not uncommon to see pigeons scavenging from rubbish bins when they’re desperate for food. In most cases, this is very bad for them as they’re likely eating contaminated food that can be fatal.

Regardless of the type of pigeon, they all share very similar diets.

What Do Baby Pigeons Eat?

Pigeon eggs in the nest

With baby and newborn pigeons, it’s important that their diet includes a high volume of protein in order to help with their early development. Adults do not require such high levels of protein, but macronutrients are crucial for baby and newborn pigeon muscle, tissue and physical development. If baby or newborn pigeons do not receive these nutrients and proteins, they can suffer from a protein deficiency. 

Their diet from this age is based solely on milk produced by their parents. This is a special type of milk known as crop milk, which is secreted by both male and female pigeons. This unique feeding process lasts for no more than a week. If baby pigeons did not receive the essential nutrients from the crop milk they are unlikely to survive, and their digestive systems will not be able to develop to the point where they can eat what adult pigeons eat.

Baby Pigeon Diet – After One Week

After one week or sometimes less, baby pigeons will be able to eat other food alongside their staple crop milk. It’s only around the third week that baby pigeons no longer require crop milk and their digestive systems are able to digest adult pigeon food. Baby pigeons will only be able to digest crushed foods with the help of the crop milk provided by their parents (to help aid digestion). 

Baby Pigeon Diet – After One Month

After a month has passed, baby pigeons will be able to safely consume other foods. However, in order for them to efficiently gather and consume food, they must first be able to safely leave their nests and fly.

Should I Be Concerned About What My Pigeon or Dove Eats?

As pigeons and doves (and stock doves) get older, their digestive systems are able to consume most foods without any problems. Obviously, urban pigeons are more likely to consume a wider variety of foods, some of which will be harmful (such as food sourced from rubbish bins etc.).

As stated above, pigeons and doves, whether they’re pet pigeons or not, require a healthy diet of seeds, fruits, nuts and vegetables in order to remain healthy. 

What Can Pigeons Not Eat?

Aside from contaminated food they source from bins around our cities, there are certain foods that can cause harm to pigeons. Pigeons have a fairly complex digestive system which means certain foods are not able to properly digest in their systems. These include:

  • Food and drink that is high in sugar: pigeons can have bad reactions to sugary foods and drinks, and can even get diabetes from them.
  • Apples – apples themselves should cause no harm to pigeons. However, if they eat apple seeds (which contain cyanide), this can cause irritation in the gut.
  • Chocolate – another compound that causes harm to pigeons is theobromine, which is present in almost all chocolate.
  • Foods high in salt (or salt itself) – salty foods contain sodium, which pigeons and other birds have problems digesting.
  • Avocados – persin is a substance that is present in avocados and is toxic to pigeons.

Can Pigeons Eat Rice?

The notion that pigeons and other birds shouldn’t be fed rice is a myth. While it isn’t advised that you feed a pigeon rice as it bears no nutritional value, if a pigeon does eat rice, it won’t cause it any harm. Cooked or uncooked, rice is perfectly safe for pigeons to eat.

Pigeons Are Able to Eat Almost Anything

Rock pigeons, wood pigeons, homing pigeons and doves all share very similar diets. As long as they receive the correct nutrients during their adolescent years, they should develop well. 

If you are experiencing any pigeon or bird-related issues, speak to one of our pest control experts today for further help and assistance. 

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Problem Birds: The Worst Bird Pests Identified and Ranked

Are birds pests?

While birds wouldn’t necessarily be put in the same category as more obvious pests, such as rats, cockroaches and bed bugs, they can cause significant damage to property, especially in higher numbers – which makes them pests. Birds present several problems, such as noise pollution, flocking, nesting, excreting and crop damage. This is why bird control is so important.

Some of the most common bird pests are:

  • Pigeons (feral pigeons)
  • Geese
  • Starlings
  • Seagulls
  • Sparrows
  • Collared doves

Below, we’ve ranked the worst bird pests and bird species from the least problematic, to the most. We have also ranked their noise pollution, droppings and flocking/grouping problems out of five (one being the least problematic, five being the most).

10. Swallows

Controversial, but the main problem with swallows is that they nest within our properties. Swallows prefer to nest in quieter areas, which leads them to build nests in our sheds, garages and the outside of our houses (mainly under roofs). The main material they use to build nests is mud, which damages exterior walls. They aren’t by any means a huge threat, but they do need to be dealt with before the problem worsens.

Noise Pollution: 2

Droppings Problem: 1

Flocking/Grouping: 2

Aggressive? No

9. Woodpeckers

Not as common as other urban birds but they do present a few problems. Woodpeckers are known for loudly drumming into trees to create nests, and this can be especially irritating when there’s a group of them. Woodpeckers may also attempt to peck into sheds, garages and other properties where they think they can build nests, which can lead to structural damage.

Noise Pollution: 4

Droppings Problem: 1

Flocking/Grouping: 2

Aggressive? Yes, if their nest is threatened

8. Collared Doves

Collard doves’ main problem is they are very territorial and difficult to relocate due to their homing instinct. They can also create quite a lot of noise, especially when in groups and during mating season. Their droppings are also known to stain properties and, if left unattended, can cause permanent damage.

Noise Pollution: 4

Droppings Problem: 3

Flocking/Grouping: 2

Aggressive? No.

7. Crows

Crows aren’t known for damaging property, but they can cause disruption to residents in large numbers. Crows are notorious for being loud and when there’s a flock nesting in a tree, they can be disruptive. Crows are also very intelligent, and they’ve been known to have an uncanny memory for human faces and even hold grudges! So, before trying to remove a crow’s nest or flock, contact a pest control expert.

Noise Pollution: 5

Droppings Problem: 2

Flocking/Grouping: 3

Aggressive? Yes, if you antagonize them

6. Starlings

Starlings are classified as an ‘urban pest’ in the same way as pigeons and seagulls are. Alone, starlings aren’t too problematic, but when flocking, they can easily overwhelm trees, buildings and even airports.

Noise Pollution: 3

Droppings Problem: 1

Flocking/Grouping: 4

Aggressive? No

5. Sparrows

Another bird that causes problems in urban areas. Sparrows will nest almost anywhere and aren’t bothered by noisy areas in the same way swallows are. They also cause problems for manufacturing and food processing plants because they create nests in these areas and steal food, which raises hygiene issues.

Noise Pollution: 2

Droppings Problem: 2

Flocking/Grouping: 4

Aggressive? No

4. Magpies

Magpies are now the most vilified birds in the whole of the UK.

Magpies are known for their aggressive and arrogant natures, often bullying other birds and disrupting crop fields and even stealing and eating other birds’ eggs. They’re also very loud and often disrupt urban areas with their squawking.

Noise Pollution: 3

Droppings Problem: 2

Flocking/Grouping: 3

Aggressive? Yes, but only to other birds.

3. Geese

Geese mainly cause problems by destroying and eating crop fields. Their excrement is also a problem, as their droppings cause health concerns, especially in lakes, reservoirs and even crops. Geese are also known for being very loud and disrupting air traffic. Canada Geese can, and have, caused serious plane accidents.

Noise Pollution: 5

Droppings Problem: 4

Flocking/Grouping: 3

Aggressive? Yes, very.

2. Seagulls

Missing out on the number one spot for the worst bird pest are seagulls. Seagulls dominant our coastlines and are not afraid of humans. They have no problem stealing food out of people’s hands and even attacking them to retrieve food. Seagull droppings also deface exterior properties and can cause lasting damage if they’re not tended to. Their notorious squawking is also a nuisance and becomes worse when they’re raising and protecting their young.

Seagulls also cause massive problems for commercial seaside businesses, as they drive away customers because of their aggressive nature and food scavenging.

Noise Pollution: 5

Droppings Problem: 4

Flocking/Grouping: 3

Aggressive? Yes, very.

1. Pigeons

Taking the number one spot for the worst bird pest is the feral pigeon. While they may not be as aggressive as other birds on this list, they are by far the most invasive and difficult bird group to relocate bird in the UK. There are hundreds of thousands of pigeons littering the UK and their excrement has caused millions of pounds worth of damage to buildings and vehicles. Additionally, pigeons carry diseases and their droppings are also very toxic and can even lead to Psittacosis (Parrot Fever).

Pigeons also flock in large numbers and can cause disruptions to air traffic in the same way as Canada Geese. They are, for the most part, placid birds but their presence causes serious damage to urban areas and can make our towns and cities look grim and dirty.

Noise Pollution: 4

Droppings Problem: 5

Flocking/Grouping: 5

Aggressive? No.


If you’re suffering from bird infestations, or birds nesting in and around your property, head over to our bird control page to find out how we can help. AMES has over 30 years’ experience in the bird control industry and can supply your property with expert bird deterrents to help keep you and your property safe and bird-free.

War pigeons: an homage to war’s unsung heroes

War Pigeons: A Remarkable History

Today, pigeons are kicked to the curb more often than not. They waddle around, annoyingly getting under our feet and inquisitively asking us for the leftovers from our lunch.

However, despite society’s usually aggressive dismissal over them, pigeons once used to play a very important role on our planet.

The History of the War Pigeon

War pigeons played an incredibly important role during the First World War, namely due to their homing instinct and them being the only reliable way to send messages.

In fact, war pigeons were so important that over 100,000 were deployed. Better yet, the delivery success rate of the war pigeon was a startling 95% reaching their message destination target. This was mainly because men could not rely on man-made systems, as some could easily be intercepted, and many were still unreliable and difficult to use.

Pigeons were very popular messengers, for all countries involved, and many could be found along the Western Front. Take the First Battle of the Marne in 1914 for example, where the French halted the German advance on Paris. It was in the heat of battle that pigeons were primarily used, as other forms of radio communication were either too intricate to use and/or too cumbersome.

Marne hosted 72 pigeon lofts, and as the French advanced forward, the lofts and pigeons came with them! However, due to the French being on the move while other pigeons were ‘on duty’, none were expected to find where the French had moved to, yet, somehow, the pigeon’s natural homing instinct was able to find the French’s new location, flying essentially blind!

Pigeons in the RAF

All RAF bombers and aircrafts pilots used pigeons. They kept them in special watertight baskets, so that if the pilot had to abandon the aircraft, the pigeon would be able to find its way back to the nearest RAF base. Thousands of men’s lives were saved by the swift service of war pigeons, with many flying in extremely dangerous circumstances.

The Strength of the War Pigeon

One of the war pigeon’s main strengths wasn’t just its homing ability, but the speed in which it travelled. A trained marksman would not be able to shoot down a pigeon, their speed was simply too immense. The only way these pigeons could be felled was to employ another bird of prey to hunt it, and this was usually a falcon.

Cher Ami: The Most Famous War Pigeon

You may have heard the heroics of this famous war pigeon, as it saved the lives of many servicemen. Cher Ami was deployed when 194 American soldiers were trapped by German soldiers and had no way of communicating with allied forces. Cher Ami flew an astonishing 25 miles in 25 minutes and was actually shot through the chest during its flight. Cher Ami did not let that stop his mission, continuing his journey in order to deliver the message that would eventually save those American troops!

Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm for his incredible service and achievement. Arguably the most fascinating fact about Cher Ami was that he would have had no idea where the American’s nearest headquarters were, he had to rely on his homing instinct.

Royal Blue: Another Remarkable War Pigeon

During WW2, one pigeon from the Royal Lofts, named Royal Blue, became the first pigeon to deliver a message from a force-landed plane on the continent. Royal Blue was deployed on October 10th, 1940 in Holland. Royal Blue flew 120 miles in a mere 4 hours and 10 minutes. He successfully reported the information back to headquarters and later received the Dickin Medal.

Don’t Kill the War Pigeons!

Killing a war pigeon was quite a serious crime during the two World Wars. Stated in Regulation 21A in the Defence of the Realm document:

Killing wounding or molesting homing pigeons is punishable in the Defence of the Realm Regulations by:

Six Months Imprisonment (or)
£100 Fine

The public are reminded that homing pigeons are doing valuable work for the government and are requested to assist in the suppression of the shooting of these birds.

There was also a £5 reward for information that led to the person’s conviction!

Pigeons Today – How the mighty have fallen!

Pigeons today litter our streets and are usually shunted to the curb for getting under our feet. Racing pigeons do represent a higher class of pigeon life, though these are not seen as frequently as the common pigeon. In truth, pigeons have unfortunately become the pests of modern society, and their excrement can cause serious damage to our properties and vehicles if left unattended.

For all pigeon inquiries, feel free to contact us here, we’d be happy to help, no matter what the pigeon-related issue is!