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Monica Porter

Coo de grace

It was the spacious roof terrace overlooking lush, tree-filled gardens which clinched it for me when I was flat-hunting two years ago. I pictured myself sunbathing there on lazy summer days and relaxing with a glass of vino of a balmy evening. How could I have known that my idyllic outdoor space would turn into a battle zone, requiring a panoply of weird weapons and the cunning of a military strategist? This, my friends, is the story of my war against the pigeons.

My north London flat is at the top of a three-storey house, in a row of four identical houses (with identical roof terraces) on a pleasant residential street. Perhaps because of all the greenery, the neighbourhood is popular with birds. I like birds, especially little singing ones. But I hate pigeons. They are big, ugly and dirty, and wherever they congregate they deposit unsightly splodges of disease-ridden droppings. I don’t even think of them as birds, but as winged vermin. And their cooing gives me the creeps.

I soon learned that our otherwise delightful roof terraces are visited by plenty of the repellent creatures. My neighbours on both sides have bird feeders, which don’t help. But I think mainly they’re just drawn to all the things they can park their fat backsides on – railings and low brick walls, ledges, chimneys and comfy flat roofs.

At the dreaded sound of flapping wings I’d stop what I was doing and stomp outside, shouting, clapping, waving my arms. At which the pigeons would casually decamp to the next house along. Sooner or later they’d return.

So I looked into what measures I could take to deter these pests. Pigeon infestation is a common problem in our towns and cities. There had to be ways of getting rid of them. I went online and sure enough, there was an amazing variety of deterrents.

I started modestly, with a set of ‘scarer rods’. These are colourful, twisty-shaped plastic rods which rotate in the wind. ‘Simple yet effective’, according to the manufacturer. I attached the rods to my wrought-iron railings, where they looked like playpen decorations and were just about as useful. The pigeons took no notice.

Next I bought a roll of ‘repeller ribbon’ – thick iridescent tape which sparkles in bright sunlight. Apparently pigeons are freaked out by the shininess and stay away. I cut off several strips and hung them from the railings. It seemed to work at first, but before long the pigeons were ignoring the strips. Anyway, it’s not as if the sun is always shining in this country.

I decided to step things up, with the bird-scarer eagle kite. Made of ‘durable nylon with a fiberglass frame’, it had a four-foot wingspan. At £18 it wasn’t too pricey and I reckoned the fierce-looking predator would look pretty frightening looming overhead. I rigged it up and at first I could tell the pigeons were taken aback, especially when the eagle fluttered in their direction and I added my own menacing sound effects. But after a spell of high winds and heavy rain, the kite became tangled and distorted, the frame got bent and it hung there looking limp and defeated. I took it down.

Still thinking birds of prey, my next purchase was the ‘wind-action’ plastic owl with a rotating head, very realistic. I stood it on my garden table. You have to fill it up with water to weigh it down, but it had a slow leak, so the water gradually dripped away. Once emptied, the owl keeled over in the breeze. By now I could almost hear the pigeons laughing.

To make matters worse, there is now a pigeon’s nest next door. It’s on top of a defunct vent in the wall, a few feet from my property. I’m told it’s unlawful to disturb such nests, and that once established, they keep returning to nest in the same place. (They’re not called ‘homing’ pigeons for nothing.) I can see the parents coming and going, and the rest of their relatives seem to stop by too. Heaven forbid anyone should disturb their home.

When the wide ledge outside my sitting room window, directly opposite the nest, began to get covered with their droppings I asked my handyman to fix a row of metal pigeon spikes along its edge. But a few days later a pigeon merely by-passed the spike barrier and commenced cooing from behind it. I almost wept.

Recently I stepped outside to find two of the hateful invaders squatting on my railings. They had made a disgusting mess on the wall beneath them, which not long ago was painted a pristine white. This was the final straw. I had no choice but to go medieval.

I’ve got a new weapon now – the Water Blaster. Not so much a water pistol, more like a water Kalashnikov, it can send a spray up to 60 feet away. I keep it fully loaded and after a few days of blasting at them, I have only to lift it up before the pigeons flap off in a panic. I hope they’ll get the message eventually and relocate elsewhere. Wish me luck.

Of course, there is a larger issue here. The government should instigate a programme for controlling pigeon numbers. They are indeed the rats of the air and should not be accorded the ‘wildlife protection’ they currently enjoy. Protecting the health of us humans should come first.