/ Home & Energy

How do you keep pigeons out of your garden?

Most of us welcome birds in our garden, but wood pigeons, though they look attractive, are often a pest. So what measures have you taken to keep ‘em off your cabbages?

Living in London, I don’t see many wood pigeons. But I am often greeted by a flock of city pigeons, flying at sufficient distance so as to not ruffle me with their feathers, but just close enough so that I’m urged to duck.

I can’t say I’m their biggest fan, but then I’m sure I’m not on their Christmas card list either…

Wood pigeon numbers booming

It’s a different story in the New Forest; from whence I originate. Wood pigeons gather in smaller numbers, although they all seem to enjoy perching on the branches of an impressive oak tree that happens to sit at the foot of our back garden. This is usually of no consequence, except when our car is parked beneath the tree and we’re greeted by carefully placed pigeon droppings on the windscreen of a morning.

In the autumn these droppings are coloured a deep shade of purple – pigeons seem to have a penchant for blackberries. The car is rarely parked under that oak tree anymore.

Apart from blackberries, there isn’t much in our garden for the wood pigeons to feed on, so they’re very welcome to stick around. However, in our 2013 survey of garden problems, over a third of people who had an issue with pests and diseases said pigeons were their biggest headache.

And their numbers are booming, with a current population of 2.7 million wood pigeons in the UK according to the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden BirdWatch.

They apparently have a voracious appetite for brassicas, including spring cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (watch out this Christmas!), and will quickly strip the leaves off these plants until they’re down to bare stalks.

Testing wood pigeon deterrents

So the Which? Gardening team wanted to see what methods were best to keep wood pigeons off your veg crops. In September 2014 they planted 1,000 square metres of spring cabbage at our trial site in Gloucestershire, which has an established population of wood pigeons. They covered the plot with horticultural fleece until the young plants were well established.

After five weeks they removed the fleece and placed a different deterrent in eight separate 40-square-metre plots of spring cabbage. Each plot was separated by at least six metres. Two of the deterrents were a kite and sonic scarer, which were separated by at least 50 metres from the nearest other sites to prevent any interference between them. Two plots with no deterrent on them were left as control sites.

They then recorded the amount of damage by birds on each plot three times a week until, after 16 days, 95% of the control plots had been destroyed.

I’m afraid I’m going to leave the results a mystery (Which? Gardening readers can see the results in the November 2015 issue), but let’s just say that the owl figure with a rotating head was about as scary to pigeons as a mouse would be to a cat. Which is shame considering we have owl figures placed atop the roofs of Which? HQ. Perhaps city pigeons are more easily intimidated.

Do you think wood pigeons are a nuisance? What do they like to eat in your garden? Do you have any special methods or products to keep them off your brassicas?

Useful links

Read our guide to cat repellents


Tom Lehrer – Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

All the world seems in tune on a spring afternoon
When we’re poisoning pigeons in the park
Every Sunday you’ll see my sweetheart and me
As we poison the pigeons in the park

When they see us coming
The birdies all try and hide
But they still go for peanuts
When coated with cyanide

The sun’s shining bright
Everything seems all right
When we’re poisoning pigeons in the park

[Do not do this @ home]

…And maybe we’ll do
In a squirrel or two,
While we’re poisoning pigeons in the park.

That is but one of Tom Lehrer’s great songs. I wonder if his fine LP is still available?

About a dozen are from Amazon. Some, however, are compilations.

Agh!……but watch out for twitchers
and RSPB snitchers
While we’re poisoning…………….

As the song says:

“We’ve gained notoriety,
And caused much anxiety
In the audubon society”

That’s yer American equivalent of the RSPB….

Then there’s the swarms of bees
Concealed in the trees
While we’re poisoning…………………… 🙂

He was a Mathematics lecturer at Harvard. Seems this was a ‘just for fun’ hobby, until his students’ reactions encouraged a couple of shows. Seems the satire ‘revolution’ was on both sides of the pond.

In educational circles, Lehrer’s ‘Elements song’ and ‘Lobachevsky’ (Plagiarise) are well known. The relevance to this Convo is that no pigeons were harmed. 🙂

Renditions of both can be found online.

Phil says:
13 July 2017

‘Tis due to pigeons
That alight
On Nelson’s hat
That makes it white.

Spike Milligan

We find Wood Pigeons delightful. Stupid, but delightful. We have a couple of mating pairs around our gardens and they often get up to all sorts of antics. Their nest-building, however, makes us wonder how the species continues.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

For at least a week I have been watching a solitary pigeon, patiently picking berries off the cotoneasters in my garden. One pigeon is not a problem but large numbers are, particularly in city centres.

wavechange, I wonder if we could also turn this round, for the pigeon to say: “One human is not a problem but large numbers are, particularly in city centres.”
I say this on the basis that we don’t own the planet, but just try to dominate, and ruin, it. I wonder if the ants will ever take over?
Incidentally, I get annoyed with our two local woodpigeons that wait for me to plant sprout and cabbage plants each spring and then proceed to gobble them up. But then, perhaps they know I have also eaten their friends in the past. Live and let live?

Pigeons don’t have the intelligence to control their numbers. Humans do, but many choose to ignore the problem.

Wiki states: “Feral pigeons often only have small populations within cities. For example, the breeding population of feral pigeons in Sheffield, England, has been estimated at only 12,130 individuals.[9] Despite this, feral pigeons usually reach their highest densities in the central portions of cities, so they are frequently encountered by people, which leads to conflict.”

RSPB says of woodpigeon there are 5,400,000 breeding pairs.

Something controls their numbers, whether intelligence or not, because I am not aware of a population explosion.

Do they really do so much harm that we cannot co-exist happily? They take blossom and fruit from “our” cherry tree, but plenty left for others. I cover vulnerable crops with mesh netting – plastic or galvanised wire. seems to work, except the cabbage white butterflies always seem to find a way in and let their caterpillars gobble up the leaves.

malcolm r says:
They take blossom and fruit from “our” cherry tree, but plenty left for others.
It’s what happens to it after it’s passed thru’ the bird’s alimentary canal which is often a problem.
Don’t forget that birds do not have separate fecal and urinary tracts, so their excretions are a type of ecological Napalm – very ‘hot’, very corrosive and very sticky.

josef, it is nature – of which we are a part. Shall we exterminate all species that we have a “problem” with? I can’t think of any living thing, other than humans, who have deliberately developed the capacity to exterminate all life. I am quite content to live alongside other species, and take the rough with the smooth.

malcolm r says:
Shall we exterminate all species that we have a “problem” with?
Since you ask, malk.
But WHY do you ask ME, malk?

The voice of reason, Malcom R – have an upvote from me!

I once had to deal with kamikaze pigeons that kept flying into my conservatory windows and knocking themselves comatose, by hanging coloured glass trinkets on the inside which solved the problem. One collard dove knocked itself out and became trapped between the small space between the conservatory and the fence. It was still there, but alive the following day so I lowered some food and water down while deciding what to do. After a few days the dove recovered but all attempts to fly out proved futile. I finally hit on a solution by lowering a step ladder through the window and opening it up. The bird soon cottoned on and gradually flew up each step on the ladder until it reached the top and had enough space to fly away.

Mission accomplished! It stayed around the garden and soon found a mate and every year it used to build its nest in the neighbours tree but soon moved on after noisy tenants and their unruly brood moved in.

” … but soon moved on after noisy tenants and their unruly brood moved in.”
Magpies, no doubt.

Nick Simon says:
6 December 2015

My (foreign) wife absolutely loves Wooden Pigeons (as she calls them), we have 2 – 4 pairs turn up at pretty precise time am + pm to be privately ground-fed grain that would not survive long when left to feral pigeons and sparrows (who have there own feeder as well).

It’s the way they waddle in a ‘stately’ manner to gets to her. We also love their cooing.

Sometimes, I tease her by harking back to a childhood Christmas in 1950s Corsham, Wilts. when a brace of wood pigeons was our Christmas ‘bird’. Lovely.

To link back to another popular Conversation, surely this task is the rightful employment of cats and dogs?

Those who are visited by neighbours’ cats may even get these services for free!

A family of Peregrine Falcons who have a flat half way up the spire of Norwich Anglican Cathedral keeps the city centre clear of Pigeons and has greatly reduced the numbers of visiting Seagulls. As shown by the live webcam, they are not at home as I write, the flat is a bit messy, and the wind is howling.

Rather irritating that after over 30 years Which? want me to pay extra for what was once included in THE magazine! Us long term subscribers get nil perks. Even those who have been subscribing over 50 years pay full whack.

Will it be searchable content soon?

More detail, please, dieseltaylor. I’ve obviously missed this.
Is it one of these Item atomization scams run by so claimed Cheap Aeroplane Coys?
Price of flight………………………………………..£100
Use of seat…………………………………………….£10
Use of Lav………………………………………………£5
Carry on hand luggage………………………..£20/500g

Once upon a time long long ago, well last century actually, the magazine was a much more useful and people saved them. I distinctly remember the 5 year trial they did on exterior paint. And they did tools etc.

Anyway as any good marketeer knows splitting your offering amongst several magazines will probably provide greater sales. You could of course rotate the various subjects by month within the main magazine so that all tastes were catered for, or do budget and spring special supplements out of cycle.

What is galling was to learn at the recent AGM our four executives on the bonus plan are all going to get 100% of salary [times three years] for exceeding the stretching target set by the Trustees. That stretching that they beat the 100% pay-out target by over 100%.

Due to some unexplained technical changes apparently it will all be paid out this financial year and our CEO may well be the first general charity CEO to get £1m in a year. The target apparently was simply cashstream growth though whether this was net or gross, or free cashflow was not clear.

So on my minuscule income I have helped the charity pay £2.24M to four executives additional to their very handsome Cameron beating salaries. You know what it seems wrong.

In 1962, coverage expanded with the launch of the first quarterly Which? car supplement, which became Motoring Which? in 1965, followed by Money Which? in 1968.

Quarterly and I am not sure if the magazines were provided as part of the normal subscription or a separate small subscription.

Tobias says:
6 December 2015

It is very wrong when a majority of Which? subscribers are living on a pension. Also, today we have many ways of finding most of the information on the internet that is in Which? Long term tests of products being the exception.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Is your statement about the ”majority” true?

However : Your point about the wrongness of the fragmentation of the product for profit is valid in general. [IMO]

The difference between the supposed quality of the DATA provided by Which? and that provided by other sources : magazines; newspapers; etc used to be claimed to be the difference between an objective opinion, and those driven by commercial imperatives.
If there is now no obvious differences in those drivers, or that the competition in the commercial sector has driven out B-facing, biased product endorsement, then ”Tobias”, you are correct again.

And that means the days of Which? are #-ed in its present form.
And maybe if, according to WikiP, the following is true, the restructuring and re-orienting is upon the ”Community”.
” As of 2015 Patrick Barwise has been appointed by Council as an “appointed elected” and remains as the chairman despite being on Council over nine years.”
Sic Transit Gloria M Young

Yes that needs to be up-dated as the new Chairman Mr Gardam took over after the last AGM. Several things are noteworthy as apparently he was appointed as future Chairman whilst not being a member of the Council as per required by the Articles. It was announced in July 2015 though he did not become a Consumer Association member until some time later, and of course was not a Council member.

“Article 12.1 – The Council shall from time to time elect from among its number a Chairman”.

AFAIK from reading the Shareholder Register he has never been a member of the Consumers’ Association in the decade before 1/8/2015 so presumably is completely unfamiliar with the charity he now heads.

One saving grace is that he and Mr Barwise were both recorded as working with Ofcom in 2004 so are presumably familiar enough to discuss matters as they arise.

Why, prey?


‘coz of the decidedly odd, and inconsistent chrono-hierarchic structuring system imposed on us by the all wize ”mods”, my interrogatory tinged comment is now orphaned.

-1 ….. (And counting)
The phantom NaySayer(s) strike(s) again !

I could almost cry. Members say to me they find Which? a bugger to navigate and I agree as I probably am more familiar than most.

HAving said that you have shown me another area!!! Why should it be so complex??!!!!

I have downloaded guides this year, I have read equipment reviews but yet I still did not have this link!

BTW Patrick
” Is there anything I should watch out for? The nozzle is quite long, so if you’re shorter than average you may find it a little tricky to use.”

Was the tester male or female?

On this page
it quotes £55 subscription however is there not a 25% special offer on for Xmas? I believe it is only for new subscriptions.

Sorry to raise the issue of costs and pay on an otherwise innocuous subject its just I think Gardening Which? is quite well-written but I cannot afford it.

As for the pigeons :

Spikes obviously work as do nets. Cats and dogs. However the concept of the pigeon-loft is novel and may work for wood pigeons.!

One method I have not yet seen mentioned is planting randomly so it makes it much harder work for the pigeons to find the food.

dieseltaylor says:
Sorry to raise the issue of costs and pay on an otherwise innocuous subject its just I think Gardening Which? is quite well-written but I cannot afford it.
Why ever shouldn’t you?
It’s the issue of G’ W? that brought this matter to the front of your mind, gave you the impetus to write your most welcome, for me at least, piece.
That’s the way that the HUMAN brain works.
That’s why so many welcome hyperlinks
That’s why so many enjoy playing Hyperjump Hide and Seek in IKEA
If our brains / we worked in straight lines, on tramlines, we’d still be swinging along with our other primate chums in some other being’s garden.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Six woodpigeons always used to make a great dinner on Saturday nights. Then the world went mad! Oh and bye the way you would never have a problem with then in your garden.

Cost me a fortune to get netting around my roof solar panels as pigeons found its a safe place to nest and breed. The noise was annoying enough but the roof and gutters were in a frightful mess. Strangely the installer reckoned he had not heard of problems but many houses are being fitted with netting. If you have solar installed make sure the underside is pigeon proof, once they take up residence they are impossible to remove and no deterrent works.

What really annoys me when I’m sitting in my garden, are other people’s children screaming and shouting, all the tme! But a step worse are the parents who do nothing about it. Either they are deaf or have absolutely no consideration for others, but if you ask them to quieten their children, so that everybody can enjoy the outdoors, you are a miserable old so and so!! Why has this country become so selfish and unable to control the children they have? We would have a more pleasant country to live in if parents took their responsibilities seriously and taught their children from a young age to respect others and learn to play quietly. The outdoors is for everybody to enjoy, not just for the selfish!

Children simply are not quiet, David, so whilst I sympathise in one way it is the way young children play. Providing it is not relentless then something we have to live with – like planes and helicopters that disturb our peace.

I hate pigeons as well as gulls. They are vermin with wings. I feed the birds with seed, mealworms and sunflower seeds. The pigeons are always there to rob the small birds of their meal. I would love to know how to stop the pigeons coming into my garden. Any tips will be much appreciated.

I have my seeds and mealworms in a bird feeder but the small birds kept fighting for their meal that much of the seed landed on the grass under the lilac tree and most of it was taken by pigeons. I now only half-fill the feeder and most of the seed goes to feed the small birds.

I’ve been reading the debate about pigeons in the garden, which I don’t mind at all but they have started using the decking as their toilet and its not pleasant clearing it up and I wonder if any readers have any suggestions. They sit on the railing which surrounds the decking and apart from putting barbed wire all over it which I am loathe to do as I have young grandchildren I am stumped. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Just found the article about WP’s . We have a breeding pair that nest ( live ) in our Ivy covered wall which is about 12 feet high , old , completely Ivy covered and fully observable from our kitchen window . Owing to the location of the wall it and its occupants are fullly visible when we use the sink ( often ) and their antics are amazing which mostly they perform on our 5 bar gate adjacent to the wall . Their courting routine and mating antics are better and more involved than other birds I am able to observe . When they are egg sitting it seems to me that they are continually mending ( exending ) their nest by bginging in new twigs when changing sitters when the mate returns ; which is very frequent . I just wonder if this is normal behavour , as it looks very enerjectic and will need more than normal food reqirement for the birds than if they individually just sat for a long while on the nest like other bird ! I find them very clever in the bird world and it is understanable that they are making full use of new farm crops ( rape seed oil ) and expanding their habitat by large numbers throughout the arable countryside of England . Their continment is essential to farming and woodpigeon shooting parties will need to be arranged as they were during and after 2nd WW , if other measures of control are not to be introduced such as crop seed laced with poison etc . It is simply totally uneconomic for very large flocks to take farm crops in the way they do now .

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Phil says:
13 July 2017

I suppose I’m lucky in having a Sparrow Hawk lurking around.