At best, the service provided by most contractors will be a quick-fix (normally culling) and the client will then be back to where they started within a matter of weeks. This is because culling has been proven to increase pigeon flock size by between 15% and 30%.

In the main, pest control contractors will recommend a combination of culling and the installation of deterrents. The question is, why pest control contractors that have recommended the installation of deterrents have also recommended culling prior to installing deterrents or at the same time? The usual response from the pest control contractor is to suggest that culling reduces the impact on the property following the installation of deterrents. Clearly this does not make sense – if the correct deterrent is chosen, and if the deterrent is installed as per manufacturer’s instructions (and in the right areas). This is because both of these services are highly profitable and in reality culling operation is completely unnecessary and sold to the client simply as an additional and worthless service.

The pest control industry will normally agree with experts and scientists that culling is completely ineffective as a bird control and far from being a sustainable solution to bird-related problems. So, why culling pigeons still practicing when it is not effective? Most pest control contractors continue to sell this service to clients simply because culling is a revenue-rich service.

Pigeons got shot


Shooting, as a method of control, is widely used by pest control contractors. Birds are usually shot at night in their roosting places and the ‘marksmen’ carrying out the task are often young and inexperienced. As it is almost impossible to kill a bird the size of a pigeon with an air rifle pellet a majority of the birds that are shot are merely wounded. Due to the inaccessibility of roosting/nesting sites it is virtually impossible to ‘dispatch’ wounded birds and as a result those birds are left to die a long and agonising death. If the injured birds return to their roosting sites to die, in a roof void of an occupied building for example, there can be serious health and safety issues for the property owner concerned as a result of rotting and stinking maggot-infested carcasses of dead birds. This is to say nothing of the humanitarian implications of leaving injured birds to die of gunshot wounds. It is not uncommon for property owners that use this service to find dead and dying pigeons in various areas of their property or site for days following a shoot.

This method of control is commonly recommended by pest control contractors as it is highly profitable. The client is normally told that once the birds have been shot and killed this will be the end of the problem; the reverse is the case. Any form of lethal control, particularly when used to control the pigeon, has been scientifically proven to increase pigeon flock size. Pigeon numbers will increase back to the pre-cull figure within a matter of weeks following a cull. Therefore the client is sold a worthless and expensive service and the pest control contractor will need to be called back in to undertake further shoots every 6-8 weeks indefinitely. See our Case Study below.

There are legal implications associated with the use of any type of lethal control. It is the client’s responsibility to ensure that the contractor is intimate with every aspect of the General Licences prior to the contractor undertaking any form of lethal control on their behalf. It is the property owner, not the contractor that will face prosecution if the service provided falls outside of the terms and conditions of the General Licence.

Target bird and point of aim.
Only one bird should be targeted at a time. The shooter should aim to have a single bird in the centre of the shot pattern at the point of impact. Shooting at a flock is not an acceptable practice.
The objective is to fire at the closest range practicable in order to reduce the risk of non-lethal wounding. Accuracy is important to achieve a humane death. One shot should ensure instantaneous loss of consciousness and rapid death without resumption of consciousness.
A pest bird should only be shot at when:
It can be clearly seen and identified.
It is within the effective range of the firearm and ammunition being used.
For most small to medium birds, the point of aim should be the centre of the birds’ chest.
For large birds such as emus, a shot to the brain, using a shotgun, is preferred when the bird is in close range (<30 m). If the bird is > 30 metres from the shooter, a chest shot using a large calibre centrefire rifle (eg .243) should be used.
When using a rifle, the target bird must be stationary and within a range that permits accurate placement of the shot.
When using a shotgun, the target bird may be stationary or mobile, but must be no more than 30 metres from the shooter. The pattern of shot should be centred on the brain (for large birds) or chest (for small to medium birds). It is essential that the distance to the target bird is accurately judged. To achieve adequate penetration of shot, the bird must be in range.
See notes above in Firearms and Ammunition on the use of air rifles on small birds.
The target bird should be checked to ensure it is dead before moving on to the next bird. When targeting multiple birds in a flock, a number of birds will need to be shot in rapid succession. In this case, the birds in the group should be checked to ensure they are dead before moving on to the next group. Death of shot birds should always be confirmed by observing the following: ― absence of movement ― absence of rhythmic, respiratory movements. ― absence of heart beat – feel the chest between thumb and forefinger ― absence of eye protection reflex (corneal reflex) or ‘blink’.
If death cannot be verified, a second shot to the head should be taken immediately or the bird killed with a blow to the skull using a heavy instrument to destroy the brain.

Killed birds must be collected and disposed of in an appropriate manner in accordance with acceptable practices as required by local councils and applicable state or federal regulations.

Trapped pigeon


This method involves encouraging pigeons into a trap that is placed in their roosting or feeding area and that is either baited with a live bird or, more commonly, with grain. Once a certain number of birds have been trapped they are removed and killed. The birds are commonly killed either by gassing or neck dislocation by pliers. The traps are then re-set. Alternatively, where more sensitive clients are concerned, pest control contractors may suggest that the trapped birds can be removed and released elsewhere. Although the client is led to believe that the trapped birds will be released to live another day, the reality is that they will be killed as soon as the pest controller leaves the site, or even when they are still on the site in some cases. Pest control contractors never release trapped birds, they are always destroyed. However, assuming that the trapped birds were released by the pest controller they would fly directly back to the site from which they had been removed, even if they had been taken several hundred miles away for release. This happened in the town of Bedford where the council brought in a pest control contractor to trap pigeons in the town centre. The trapped pigeons were then removed to an aviary where they were kept for six weeks, before being released some 250 miles away. Each bird had a blue ring fitted to its leg so that any birds that did return to Bedford were immediately identified. Of the 80 pigeons that were trapped, over 70 returned.

It should be noted that pigeons will always return to their roost and therefore, no matter how far the birds are taken from their existing roosting site to be released, they will fly directly back to the roost from which they have been removed…

Although there is a legal requirement for anyone setting traps to inspect their traps every 24 hours, some pest control contractors fail to comply with this legislation and trapped birds are left to starve to death or die of exposure. This was the case when Westminster City Council contracted a pest control contractor to provide traps on flat roof areas of council-owned accommodation provided for the elderly. Residents witnessed up to 30 birds being left in cage traps, with no food or water, for over 72 hours in searing temperatures. Although in this case it was the pest control contractor that had broken the law, had a prosecution taken place it is likely that Westminster City Council would have been prosecuted, not the pest control contractor.

It should also be pointed out that if a breeding pair of birds is lured into a cage-trap their young in the nest will starve to death. This means that the decaying carcasses of these young birds are left to decompose and become maggot-infested causing far greater problems to the property owner than the original pair of pigeons had caused by their fouling. Clearly these issues, and indeed the humanitarian arguments, are never discussed with the client by their chosen pest control contractor.

Of all the methods of lethal pigeon control cage-trapping is far and away the most inefficient. After traps have been in site for 2 weeks or more they will be avoided by the target species and therefore become redundant. Although all methods of lethal control are inefficient and ineffective, this method will always cost the client more than any other method.

Poisoned pigeon


The lethal poison that causes excruciating pain and death. It causes sustained and violent spasms, they can’t breathe and gasping for air till dying in massive pain. It is sentencing birds to agonizingly painful deaths that can last for hours.

The birds should, in theory, consume the narcotic and sit and wait to die and then be picked up; however, many birds feed and fly off, and as a result can die an inhumane death. The poison is not specific to pigeons, indiscriminate killer and consequently other non-target birds may be affected. Many of these pigeons collected by pest control operators and dumped while still alive.