Signs put up by the council in West Ealing asking people not to feed pigeons have been spray-painted over in the night less than 24 hours after being put up and again after being cleaned just days later.
A small public space on the corner of Melbourne Avenue has become the centre of a bizarre squabble between local pigeon-lovers and annoyed residents, who are utterly fed up with the droppings the birds leave.
Ealing Council recently rejuvenated the spot in response to resident pressure, turning it from untended grass to a paved area with flowerbeds.
But the vandalism last Friday (October 5) and on Monday (October 8) shows the determination of the bird-feeders.
West Ealing Neighbours chairman David Highton, 67, said: “There’s been a long-running problem here for years with people feeding pigeons.
“It attracts birds to an area where they cause considerable difficulties and people get quite passionate about it on both sides, hence someone taking all the trouble to come out in the dead of night to do this.
“If you get that many pigeons together in one place there can be health risks, what with all the diseases they carry, and their droppings block the gutters.
“Someone spent £3,000 putting spikes on their fence and roof and a young couple had to spend £500 getting their gutters cleaned because otherwise the water spills over.”
But clearly not everyone sees the birds as a pest.
What diseases are carried by pigeons?
People living in areas with a lot of pigeon droppings and feathers could be at risk of the following diseases:
- Yeast infection – widely spread by pigeons and can affect the skin, mouth and lungs. Symptoms include bad breath, bloating and joint pain
- Salmonella and E.coli – both bacteria are carried by pigeons and can cause diarrhea and stomach pains. Salmonella also causes fever, while E.coli causes vomiting
- Parrot fever – caught from inhaling bacteria from dry droppings, a very rare but often fatal disease which can cause bloody coughing and brain swelling
- Histoplasmosis – a fungal disease caught by inhaling spores. It causes flu-like symptoms including chest pains, fever and fatigue. Can be fatal for those with weakened immune systems
- Cryptococcosis – another fungal disease found in droppings at around 80% of nesting sites. It can cause a serious pneumonia-like infection in those with weakened immune systems
- St Louis encephalitis – a virus carried by pigeons and transmitted to humans via mosquito bites. It causes fever, dizziness, nausea and headaches and can lead to infection of the nervous system
Mr Highton added: “[Some] people feel it is their right to feed the birds and they come round on a regular basis. Residents have tried to ask them not to do this but some people can get quite abusive.
“West Ealing Neighbours will look after the flower beds and we are keen to make the place look as attractive as possible but given the chance the pigeons will walk all over it as they have in the past and wreck it.
“I’m not personally one who would say that we should get rid of all the pigeons but there’s some places that are not appropriate to feed them because of the health risks and the damage to people’s homes.”
At some point during last Friday night (October 5), after 7.30pm, signs instructing people not to feed pigeons were completely painted over with black spray paint, having only just been installed.
The signs were cleaned on Monday (October 8) morning but again defaced during the night.
A resident who wishes to remain nameless for fear of retribution said: “I have basically got an infestation of pigeons on my house that I cannot do anything about.
“It makes the area look really unsightly to have a massive horde of pigeons defecating everywhere and it’s causing me and my neighbours a massive amount of stress.”
‘The bane of my existence’
“At times there have been up to 30 pigeons defecating all over my property, it means I have to pay people to clean my gutters and have to clean droppings off the front of my house every few weeks.
“The noise they make is also really loud, I struggle to even watch TV. It’s honestly the bane of my existence and really soul-destroying to see people keep feeding them and encouraging them to congregate here.
“I have seen people drive up and tip huge bags of birdseed there on a couple of occasions and every morning a few people drop bread.
“I can appreciate different cultures have different relationships with pigeons than mine does and I try to speak to them nicely but some of them just seem unhinged. One told me that pigeons were the reason we won World War Two so he was going to keep looking after them.
Religions that encourage the feeding of pigeons
Some religious groups encourage the feeding of pigeons.
Sikh high priest and warrior Guru Gobind Singh is often associated with pigeons and many Sikhs believe that, when they are reincarnated, they will never go hungry if they have fed the birds in a previous life.
Some religious groups also believe that when a person dies his or her soul assumes the form of a bird, very often a pigeon, and that by feeding birds they are caring for the souls of their departed ancestors.
The pigeon is a revered animal in India and flocks numbering in the thousands are fed daily outside Hindu temples throughout the country.
“We spent a long time complaining to the council and they eventually paid a significant sum to have the area redeveloped. At the time I thought it would make people change their behaviour but the signs were painted over instantly.
“If this person’s prepared to spray public signs, which is a criminal act, it seems like they would do whatever is necessary to keep feeding the birds.”
In response to the vandalism Ealing councillor Mik Sabiers said: “Pigeons are pests and it’s been an offence to feed them since the 1981 Environment Act.
Should people feed pigeons?
“They impact on residents’ enjoyment of our parks and open spaces and there is a cost to cleaning up after these birds.
“If someone is seen feeding pigeons, a fixed penalty notice will be issued in line with the council’s policy on fining those caught dropping litter on the borough’s streets.”
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