Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Disuading town-savvy wood pigeons


The wood pigeon, besides being one of the handsomest birds around, is either very wary or very gullible.
            When I lived in the country, you were very lucky to get to within half a mile of any wood pigeon, unless you either set up decoys or waited beneath a tree where they would roost.
            For the roosting lot you might shoot a couple for the pot, but by making very simple decoys of folded and painted cardboard, held on a twist of fencing wire and pointing up-wind, you could be of great help to a farmer as a noisy scarecrow. Moreover, you could shoot so many of these tasty birds that one simply cut off the breast meat for stews and pat├ęs and buried the rest. This arrangement meant more grain to harvest for the farmer and more food to eat for the marksman.
            The wood pigeon in London, though, is quite a different beast.  It might land close to you and look you in the eye boldly before eating as much of other bird’s food that you might have on offer. And it is small garden birds that most of us want to help through a cold winter and encourage to nest and breed in the garden. They make such delightful and colourful mobiles.
            So how to prevent large and greedy wood pigeons from hogging bird food?
            Nuts in an anti-squirrel feeder are safe from their predatory beaks, but any feeder with a try beneath to catch husks and uneaten bird food makes a landing and claw-purchasing place for the agile villains – who then proceed to eat and then foul the garden flagstones.
            I have found that chicken wire as a deterrent in any configuration is not only unsightly but has little effect. A wood pigeon will simply land on it, compress it, and use it as a perch for dinner.
            An observer of a wood pigeon taking off from a site will notice that it has to raise its wings high above its body. So if you can prevent them from taking off you will stop them from landing. So, in that way, the problem will have been solved.
            A weatherproofed, hardboard disc, fitting around a tube of food, and wired in a position to prevent the raising of wings, is the answer when the feeding outlets are low down on the tube. But for a two-tier feeder (as for goldfinches’ niger seed) it is far more difficult. I tried the disc method, and was defeated. So I added to the disc my never-failing, anti-animal solution – that of spreading engine grease mixed with chilli powder where feet or claws might land. This worked, but made a nasty, greasy, seed-coated mess. So the idea was abandoned. The wood pigeons were winning.
            Margreet then came up with the idea of a bucket, slung beneath a bare feeder. So I made one, with a “handle” of copper wire threaded through the rim of a 6” black plastic flower-pot.
            The previous device of greasy disc was destroyed and feeding tube cleaned. A hook was then added to beneath the feeder, and the “bucket” suspended from it. To prevent husks and uneaten seeds falling through the pot’s drainage holes, and yet allow rainwater through, a circle of plastic was cut to almost fit the bottom of the pot.
            The pigeons are unable to hang on to the goldfinches’ perching places and uneaten seeds and husks are trapped in a bucket that they are unable to raid.
            We now have a cleaner garden and some frustrated wood pigeons.