Parklife

If you’ve ever seen my Flickr stream you might realize I’m quite fond of birds.

Sleepy tit

Even here in Zone 2 there are a lot of birds around—especially in our garden. Blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, robins, dunnocks, goldfinches, wrens, chaffinches, blackbirds, sparrows… Lots of birds.

Baby blue

We encourage them, too. We’ve got bird feeders and suet block and fat ball holders. Jenny gave me a bird cam one Christmas, and a birdbath to point it at on my following birthday.

Reflected

We also have pigeons.

Lots of fat flipping pigeons.

You might say, a plague of pigeons, and you wouldnt be far off. It is London, after all.

And I hate the little bastards. They crap over the garden furniture, they walk all over and wreck the young plants, and they will systematically empty the bird feeders in one sitting.

So there has been a bit of a war going on in our back yard. It’s not going well.

I’m not here all the time to try to blind them with my laser pointer. We’re too close to the road to use an air rifle. And every modification of the feeders to try to discourage them has failed. Pointy spikes on the top, strategic Sellotape on the squirrel-proof sides—none of this works. (And it’s ugly, too).

Sticky pigeon

The first iteration of our feeders were standard, cageless things with little perches. The problem with that was the squirrels, and that no matter how short the perches were, the pigeons could still hold on and knock the seeds out of the feeder. That’s why we got the ones with cages and, watching the songbirds, it’s clear that they like to go inside the cage and peck—so maybe, suggested Jenny, we should get a bigger cage. Fine, I said, can you find somewhere that sells them?

So Jenny googled for pigeon-proof bird feeders, and stumbled across this post by IanVisits (who I know from Twitter, as it happens) from a year ago, in which he describes how he overcame exactly this problem. Briefly, he got some plant supports and turned his feeder into Pinhead. “What an excellent notion!” we opined, and set off across the River to locate some green sticks of anti-pigeoness.

And here we are:

Defence
The best defence…?

So far, we haven’t yet seen any pigeons try to get in, and the songbirds seem delighted, and—more to the point—able to feed in safety and comfort.

Better living through technology. Thanks Ian!

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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6 Responses to Parklife

  1. cromercrox says:

    I was going to suggest tactical nuclear weapons. Or cats.

  2. rpg says:

    Biological warfare? The cure might be worse than the disease.

    (Also, I’d like to get rid of the few cats that make it in the garden, too.)

  3. Laurence Cox says:

    I “solved” the squirrel problem slightly differently. I have some thin plastic-coated wire that I hang the feeders from. If the wire is long enough that the sqirrel cannot reach the top of the feeder, while hanging from the branch by its back legs, I have found that squirrels are reluctant to try to reach it by climbing down the wire. It is also necessary that the feeder is high enough (above head height) to discourage the squirrel from trying to jump from the feeder directly to the ground. The other approach that I have found to work with squirrels is to go to the back door of the house (so that they can see me) and clap. A single clap gets their attention and another clap a few seconds later usually has them running for next door’s garden and beyond. Repeat a few times and their behaviour is quite Pavlovian.

  4. Here the problem is jackdaws and magpies and we get round it by using a caged feeder or a conventional one hung within the branches of a tree so that the larger birds can’t approach.

    Your story reminded me of when I was a teenager and we lived next door to a young naval officer and his family. The pride and joy of the naval neighbour was his front lawn and he was very upset when a mole took up residence under it. He tried various means to stop the mole from creating neat heaps of soil on the lawn but was unsuccessful. Eventually he appeared on his front step with a shotgun. When one of the mole heaps twitched he discharged the shotgun in to the heap.
    I didn’t think much of this at the time but now, many years later, I see how seriously weird he must have been.

    By the way, this story has no relation to today’s date.

  5. Nice photos. That first one is unbelievably cute.

    We have a conventional “barn” style feeder with a trick, counter-balanced perch. You set it so that it will tip and shut off access to the seed if anything too heavy sits on it. We have ours set roughly for one and a half Common Grackles, but it’s effective for pigeons too.

    It’s very similar to the fifth one down on this page:
    http://www.birdwatchersgeneralstore.com/spf.htm

    Might be the same thing, now that I look at it again.

    I quite like pigeons though – they are smarter than they look, and real urban survivors. But I get why others dislike them. 😉

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