Pigeon or rock dove (Columba livia)


This exotic species is about 11-13″ long, and 13 ounces. 

Signs of their presence: 

The bird itself is the most obvious sign. 

Sounds: Distinctive cooing, clicking as wing tips touch during take-off. 

Droppings: May accumulate on rafters, building ledges, public areas. 

Nests: Crude-looking platform nests of sticks, twigs, and grasses. Find them near dormer tie-ins (the joint where the dormer meets the roof), on building ledges, in steeples, attics, and lofts, on top plates of pole barns, on the girders of bridges, and on ornamental architectural features of classic buildings. 


Mostly herbivorous. Pigeons eat mostly seeds and grains, but will eat garbage, livestock manure, insects, and the bread and crackers that people feed them. 

Typical activity patterns: 

Social style: Sociable, nesting and foraging in large flocks. 

Daily activity: Diurnal. 

Hibernator? No. 

Migrates? No. 

Where found: 

In Illinois these birds can be found everywhere. Pigeons can be found in cities, farms and certain agricultural businesses. 

Habitat: Pigeons prefer domestic environments such as town and city parks, buildings, and bridges. However, they can also be found near grain elevators, feed mills, and farmyards. 

Territory and home range: Pigeons will defend a small area immediately around their nest site. 

Breeding habits: 

Pair bonding style: Monogamous, but both sexes may occasionally mate with others, too. The male guards the female and nest. Both sexes feed the young. 

Breeding dates: Year-round, with peaks in the spring and fall. Females lay more eggs even before the young leave the nest. 

Clutch size: 1–2 eggs. Young hatch in about 8–12 days. 

Fledging dates: Young leave the nest about 10 days after hatching. 

Amount of time young remain with parents beyond fledging date: Very little, if any. If the young return to the nest site when the parents are raising a second brood, they will be driven off. 

Common nuisance situations: 

Time of year: Any time of year. 

What are they doing? 

Droppings deface and corrode building facades and may kill plants. They’re unpleasant on park benches, statues and cars. Under certain conditions, the droppings can promote the growth of the fungus that causes histoplasmosis, an airborne disease that affects people. 

Eat or contaminate stored grain. 

One of their parasites, the northern fowl mite, is also a major pest of poultry. Other pigeon parasites (mites, fleas, lice) will bite people. Some of their parasites destroy fabric or stored foods. 

Like other birds, pigeons may cause plane crashes. 

May transfer disease from one livestock facility to another. 

Disease risks: histoplasmosis, salmonellosis (food poisoning), cryptococcosis, pigeon ornithosis, encephalitis, and Newcastle disease, among others. 

Legal status in Illinois: 

Unprotected. The pigeon is an exotic species; an exemption to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act allows for its control without a federal permit. Local ordinances may prohibit certain control measures.  

Best practices 

Remove artificial food and water sources (bird seed, pools): 

If anyone’s feeding the pigeons, persuade them to stop. This can be challenging because many people love to feed pigeons. 

Clean up spilled grain around feed mills, grain elevators, railcar clean-out areas, and barns. 

Clean up spilled bird seed around feeders. 

Eliminate pools of standing water. 

Make outdoor roosts less appealing: 

An overhead grid-wire system will keep pigeons from landing in a courtyard. Use 80-pound monofilament wire spaced in a square grid, with the wires one to two feet apart. 

To keep pigeons off support cables, narrow ledges, conduit, and other narrow areas, use a commercial “post-and-wire” system (Bird Barrier, Birewire™).  

With care, you can create a homemade version, but it will probably be much harder to install, so it’s probably not a practical approach. But if you’d like to try, here’s how: 

Stretch steel wire (16- to 18-gauge) or monofilament line (80-pound) in parallel lines across the area. The lines must be very tight, so fasten the wires to L-brackets with turnbuckles to remove slack. Attach the brackets to the wall using cable clamps or aircraft hose clamps, which can handle the high torque load on the wires. 

The Avian Dissuader® has positive results in repelling birds. This laser is powerful and can damage your eyes; seek proper safety training before using this product. 

Dousing the birds with water from hoses or sprinklers that are mounted near their roost may work. Be persistent. 

Remove their nests and eggs if they can be reached 

Keep them out of, and off of buildings: 

Seal all openings to eaves, lofts, steeples, and vents. Any material works for this. 

To keep them out of sheds, barns, garages, hangars, and warehouses, staple 1/4–1″ polypropylene netting to the underside of the roof beams. 

To keep birds off of ledges: 

Install a “post-and-wire” system, as described above. 

Fasten wood, stone, sheet metal, styrofoam, or plexiglass “plates” to the ledge at a 45° angle so the birds can’t comfortably perch there. 

Attach a sharply pointed steel device to the ledge. There are a few variations, including porcupine wire (prongs point out in many angles), ECOPIC™ (vertical rods), and a steel coil that looks like a slinky. Pigeons don’t like to land on these objects because they hurt,  

Some birds may layer nesting materials over them. If that happens, remove the nest. (If the prongs are too widely spaced apart, the pigeons will find it easier to perch on them.) 

Install electric shock devices on the ledge (Avi-Away™, Flyaway™, and Vertebrate Repellent System™). When the bird lands, it receives a shock but the shock will not kill the bird. 

Trapping strategies: 

Pigeons may be live trapped in areas in which they frequent 

Effective areas to set up traps include near roosting, loafing, and feeding sites.  

If they’re roosting in a barn, you can trap them at night using nets. 

Live traps can be purchased from major trap suppliers 

A pigeon trap looks like a large box trap 

By pre-baiting the traps, the birds will become accustomed and success rates may increase. 

Bait may also be placed around the outside of a trap to entice the birds 

Baits that can be used include cracked corn, millet, popcorn, sunflower seeds, bread, peanuts, and peas.  

In hot weather, trap near their water sources, or cooler areas such as a rooftop air-conditioning system. 

Alpha-chloralose mixed in with bait has been seen to be effective for capturing nuisance rock doves 

Cage trap designs include the funnel trap, lily-pad trap, and clover-leaf trap. The name describes the shape of the trap. These portable traps are made from screen and directs the birds inwards. They work best if you leave 4–5 pigeons inside as a decoy to attract other pigeons (of course, leave food and water for the birds daily, and partially cover the trap to protect them from weather extremes). 

If the birds become trap-shy, leave the traps open for 2–3 days, then reset for 4–5 days. If it’s still not working, choose another site. 

For construction details on these traps, see the “Pigeons” chapter in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Full citation in resource list. 

Lethal techniques: 

Shooting pigeons with a .22 caliber rifle, shotgun, or air rifle, can be used to remove pigeons. 

Local ordinances should be reviewed before discharging a firearm.  

Nest removal is an effective control method if it is followed up with pigeon-proofing the structure shortly thereafter.  

Preferred killing methods: 

CO2 chamber 

Cervical dislocation 

Shooting, using an air rifle, a shotgun, or a .22 caliber rifle  

Acceptable killing methods: 

Stunning and chest compression 

Control strategies that don’t work particularly well, or aren’t legal in Illinois: 

Audible and visual repellents can be used but may not have a long-term affect, as pigeons may become accustom to such devices. 

For information on legal pesticides click the following link, https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/agr/Pesticides/Pages/Pesticide-Use-And-Regulation.aspx 

Chasing the pigeons away may work while you are there, but they will just come back when you leave 

These repellents include but are not limited to predator decoys, firing of blank cartridges, propane-fired cannons, and reflective tape.  

If said devices work, follow it up with pigeon proofing the structure. 

This includes placing spikes where the birds prefer to roost or land 

Putting netting where they nest, thus denying them the opportunity to build nests in the first place. 

If you chose to use a predator decoy, move it around every few days to make it seem more realistic.