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Pigeons in Paris

Pigeons in Paris

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Seeing pigeons on the Parisian landscape is as common as the famous dog poop on Parisian streets. With the ratio of 1 pigeon per 25 Parisians, what does it mean to share one's space with this bird kind ? Here's their story, second hand of course !


Feeding pigeons in Venice


In Paris, there are three existing species* of pigeon- the Rock pigeon (Columba livia), Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) and the Stock pigeon (Columba oenas). It may be known that as many as 174 species of birds form the biodiversity of Paris along with 2000 species each of plants and animals, 3 species of reptiles, 10 species of amphibians, 33 species of mammals and 36 species of fishes.

Historically, the pigeons were wild birds living in rocky cliffs, mountains or desert areas. Their 'domestication' dates back to Egypt of 5000 years back where they were used primarily for food. However, the pigeon's ability to return to its 'home' even from a few hundred kilometres gave rise to their use as messengers or 'homing pigeons*'*. In France, pigeons as domesticated birds are not cited before the Roman occupation.


In Paris, there are as many as 90,000 pigeons of which the rock pigeon accounts for about 90% of the population and is the one that we commonly see perched on the apartment ledges and roof-tops. Like other birds, animals, plants, insects etc, pigeons contribute to the biodiversity of Paris. At the same time, having a high population of any one particular species could be harmful for the others. Over the past couple of years, the city of Paris has been struggling to control the population of pigeons so that they do not become a nuisance for co-existence.


In fact, in the wake of bird flu of 2003-2006, the French government had banned any regrouping of birds especially on the occasion of exhibitions, markets, competitions etc.*** Pigeons may be, like other birds, carriers of bacteria, parasites, virus and allergens. Their nests are known to attract rats and insects which, in turn, may transmit diseases. Pigeon droppings are acidic in nature and can degrade monuments over a period of time.

In cities, various measures are adopted for population control of pigeons such as sterilisation, introduction of dovecot**** in the cities, bird catching or poisoning. There may be a debate, but the most effective method, keeping in mind the respect for all forms of life, seems to be the dovecots. These compartmentalised bird houses, that can have place from a handful to a few thousand birds, are installed in various places to regulate the healthcare and the population of pigeons. The control is done in accordance with the animal protection groups.

 Colombier at Puteaux
Colombier, Puteaux

To prevent pigeons from perching on apartment ledges, using anti-pigeon spikes (French 'pic anti-pigeon') is an effective solution. These are easily available at hardware stores such as Bricorama, Bricolex etc., however, for many, their high price could be a deterrent (around 19-20€/ meter). Another solution is using pigeon-repellent sprays (French 'rĂ©pulsif pigeon') that is more accessible at around 10€/ bottle although it is less effective. Owning a garden in Paris is a luxury but for those who have it, anti pigeon net (French 'filet anti-pigeon') are available in the market to protect plants. Available at an affordable price of 2€/ sq. meter upwards, certain shops may sell it pertaining to a minimum order quantity. 


In parks and gardens, it is a common site to see people feeding pigeons. In fact, some places are known to be synonymous with pigeon feeds such as the Saint Marco Piazza of Venice. Apart from various laws on the issue***** the city of Paris has been trying to educate its citizens not to feed the birds. There are several given reasons- making wild birds dependent on humans for their food, change in the birds' behaviour and health to their over-population and concentration in certain areas that could be a nuisance to public life, sanitation and health.


With ecological, health-wise and sanitary issues both ways, for the pigeons and the humans, what is the best way to co-exist ? We will let the readers decide for themselves...




*In French, the rock pigeon is called 'pigeon biset de la ville', the wood pigeon is 'pigeon ramier' and the Stock pigeon is 'pigeon colombin'.

**This characteristic of pigeons may be due to magnetite, a magnetic mineral, found in their brains in addition to those of bees, termite, fishes and humans. Magnetite is thought to help in magneto reception or the ability to sense the polarity of Earth's magnetic field and in navigation. Magnetite is also a component in magnetic compass.

*** ArrĂȘtĂ© of May 12th, 2006 modifying the arrĂȘtĂ© of October 24th, 2005 relative to the measures of the protection vis-Ă -vis bird flu*« Art. 5 (extract). - All regrouping of birds, in particular on the occasion of fĂȘtes, markets, exhibitions, competitions, organised in the communes is prohibited except permission granted by the prefect conforming to the sanitary conditions defined by the minister in-charge of the agriculture. » (ArrĂȘtĂ© du 12 mai 2006 modifiant l'arrĂȘtĂ© du 24 octobre 2005 relatif Ă  des mesures de protection vis-Ă -vis de l'influenza aviaire*« Art. 5. - Tout rassemblement d'oiseaux, en particulier Ă  l'occasion de foires, marchĂ©s, expositions, concours, organisĂ© dans les communes figurant en annexe ou auquel participent des oiseaux provenant des mĂȘmes communes est interdit sauf dĂ©rogation accordĂ©e par le prĂ©fet conformĂ©ment aux conditions sanitaires prĂ©cisĂ©es par instruction du ministre chargĂ© de l'agriculture. »)


****Called 'pigeonnier' or 'colombier' in French, there are as many as 10 dovecots installed in Paris since March 2003. These are at:

Square Lazareff, rue RĂ©aumur (75002)
Square Vercingétorix-Brune, boulevard Brune / rue Vercingétorix (75011)
145 rue de la Roquette (75011)
Square  Saint-Eloi, rue du Colonel-Rozanoff / passage Montgallet (75012)
Square de Choisy, rue du Docteur Magnan (75013)
Pilot pigeon house at boulevard Brune (75014)
Avenue Dode de la Brunerie, porte de Saint-Cloud (75016)
Square Nadar, rue Azais (75018)
Boulevard Serrurier (75019)
Square de la Gare de Charonne (75020)


*****Sanitary rules of the department of Paris. Art. 41 ter: The proprietors have to install grills on openings that are susceptible to allow the entry of rodents, pigeons and other animals. (RĂšglement sanitaire du dĂ©partement de Paris Art 41 ter : Les propriĂ©taires doivent grillager les ouvertures susceptibles de permettre l’entrĂ©e des rongeurs, pigeons et autres animaux.)

Art 120 (extract): It is prohibited to throw or deposit seeds or food in all public places susceptible to attract wild or stray animals, notably the cats and the pigeons. (Art 120 extrait : Il est interdit de jeter ou dĂ©poser des graines ou nourriture en tous lieux publics susceptibles d’attirer les animaux errants, sauvages, ou redevenus tels, notamment les chats ou les pigeons.)



For pigeon lovers, the following site (in French) may be useful: www.colombophiliefr.com