As a pest species, pigeons are much maligned and it’s important to keep their numbers under control because they can cause a lot of damage and spread diseases. 

However, it seems that these birds do have a vital role to play in helping to support predatory bird populations in both urban and rural spaces alike, something that came to the fore particularly during the pandemic.

New research from King’s College London and the University of Bristol – published in the British Ecological Society People and Nature journal – found that peregrine falcons in London had to actually change their diet away from pigeons because there weren’t as many in urban centres during lockdowns, thanks to less direct feeding and discarded food waste.

In London, peregrines switched from pigeons as prey to starlings and parakeets, although in other cities around the UK, pigeons were still the main source of food for these falcons. 

These changes raised questions regarding how pest control could have an impact on birds that depend on pest species for survival. For example, in Poland, northern goshawk population numbers fell by almost half when farmers stopped rearing domestic pigeons and other poultry.

Moving to different types of prey or foraging further from their nests because of a reduction in pest species can lead to a drop in nutrition, as well as depleting energy resources required for fitness or reproduction because of the increased effort necessary for hunting.

Co-author of the study Brandon Mak said: “Our results indicate that peregrines in larger, highly urbanised cities like London may be more dependent on, and hence more vulnerable to changes in, human activities which support their prey populations, particularly feral pigeons.”

He went on to say that we’re still learning about how wildlife is affected by lockdowns, which could potentially shed light on the links between human and animal lives in shared environments.

Of course, pigeons are still pest species and their numbers do need to be controlled. If you do have an infestation on your hand and need help managing populations humanely, get in touch with us today to discuss pigeon proofing roof measures and more.