Dietary habits of urban pigeons (Columba livia) and implications of excreta pH – a review

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Abstract

Pigeons are considered to be urban pests, causing untold damage to buildings and potentially impacting the health of humans who come into contact with them or their faeces. Pigeon faecal matter has been implicated in both health impacts and building damage, with the acidity of the excreta playing an important role. Purpose of the Review. This paper is a wide-ranging review of the chemical processes of excreta in the pigeon to aid our understanding of the potential problems of pigeons to buildings and human amenity in the urban space. The natural pH of pigeons is shown to vary based on the bird’s and age as well as reproductive stage. Key findings of the review. The influences of the altered diet between the rock dove (the wild progenitor of the feral pigeon) and the feral pigeon are detailed, indicating that the human-based diet of urban pigeons most likely causes the feral pigeon excreta to be more acidic than the rock dove excreta. This higher acidity is due in part to diet, but also to potential increases in faecal and/or uric acid volumes due to the low quality of human-based diets. Again, this area of interest is highly data deficient due to the few number of studies and unspecified dietary intake before pH measurement. Implications of the review. Humans are increasingly concerned about pigeon populations (and presumably their accumulated faeces) in the urban space, and control comprises a large part of the interaction between humans and feral pigeons. This review provides a greater understanding of feral pigeons and the true effects of their excreta.

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