We see them everywhere, but just why are there so many pigeons in London? Pigeons throughout history have always been drawn to densely populated areas, and this is partly because a higher number of people means they have a higher chance of finding food. 

Unfortunately, the public’s opinion surrounding pigeons varies quite dramatically. For example, some people enjoy feeding them seeds or watching them in the park, whereas others would be overjoyed if they never had to see a pigeon ever again. 

Throughout the years, we’ve completed hundreds of Pigeon Control jobs in London, and have witnessed these opinions first-hand.

Let’s take a closer look at the bird species, and answer some of our most frequently asked questions regarding pigeons in London.

How many Pigeons are there in London?

It’s almost impossible to know the exact number of pigeons in London or any location for that matter. However, our calculations show that there is approximately one pigeon to every three people in the UK. This means that there are roughly 2,993,000 pigeons currently residing in the London Boroughs.

The pigeons we see across London today were initially bred as homing pigeons to be used during the first and second World Wars. However, the problem quickly grew out of control due to the rate at which pigeons can breed. Each monogamous pairing of pigeons can reproduce and create 12 new pigeons every year, so it’s obvious how this number grew to almost 3 million!

Why are there so many pigeons in London?

London is, of course, the capital city and the most densely populated area of the UK. With over 9 million residents, London is a bustling city boasting great opportunities for people and pigeons alike.

Feral pigeons always favour built-up areas as a large number of people means one thing: food. So the more people there are, the higher the chances that one will feed the pigeons. As well as this, litter builds up due to a high volume of rubbish and inadequate infrastructure. Pigeons are not fussy creatures; they will happily get their nourishment from whatever they can find on the floor, whether that’s seeds or last night’s kebab!

However, it’s not just food that attracts the pigeons. London’s cityscape full of high rise buildings provides pigeons with an abundance of shelter, keeping them safe from the elements and predators. The pigeons we know today were originally bred from wild rock doves that lived on cliffs at the sea edge. This rugged landscape is replicated in London’s skyline, with lots of perching and nesting opportunities everywhere.

Is it illegal to feed London’s pigeons?

Feeding pigeons has been a popular pastime of Londoners since the 1800s, with many making their living selling birdseed in Trafalgar Square. However, the pigeon problem quickly got out of hand. Tourists were visiting the area to feed the famous pigeons, but the increase in food availability meant more and more pigeons flocked to the scene. 

The number of pigeons in Trafalgar Square continued to rise until 2003 when the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, banned feeding them. According to the law, feeding feral pigeons anywhere in the perimeter of Trafalgar Square is forbidden. Anyone feeding the pigeons in this area will be given a fine and may even face prosecution, although it’s rare. 

group of birds in London

The same rules also apply to other areas across London where the pigeon problem became uncontrollable, including:

  • The street in front of the National Gallery
  • Canada House
  • South Africa House
  • The area around St Martin-in-the-Fields
  • Certain parts of The Mall
  • Strand
  • Charing Cross Road

So, although it’s not illegal to feed pigeons across most of London, we advise against it – it’s not worth risking a fine, and it’s definitely not worth risking prosecution!

Additionally, pigeons are surprisingly intelligent creatures who can remember the faces of people that feed them. So, unless you want a flock of pigeons following you around, we suggest you don’t feed them. There’s no need to worry about them going hungry as there’s such an abundance of food around already.

What types of pigeons are in London?

There are two types of pigeons you will see in London, the feral pigeon and the wood pigeon. In the city centre, you’re much more likely to see feral pigeons as they thrive off the buzz of a city. Due to the problems they cause and the nuisance they create, feral pigeons are commonly referred to as vermin. They will eat anything they come across and are not afraid of humans, making a city like London an ideal location for them.

In contrast, the wood pigeon is much more likely to live in quieter areas like gardens, parks, and forests – out of the way of the busy commotion of city life. Also, unlike their feral cousins, wood pigeons are very particular about their diet. Instead of eating fast food leftovers from the floor, wood pigeons get their nutrients from leaves, berries and other fruits they find.  

How are pigeons controlled in London?

There are a number of bird control methods you can use to manage the population of pigeons. For example, since feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square was forbidden, a professional bird handler flies a Harris’s Hawk over the area every morning to ward them off. Although this may seem excessive, it wasn’t exactly appropriate to cover Nelson’s Column in bird netting and spikes! 

Many tall buildings in London will have bird netting on their roofs to deter pigeons from nesting on their property and causing damage to the structure. As well as this, you’ve probably seen bird spikes on most buildings around the city, particularly on window ledges and along shop signs as these are areas prone to damage via bird droppings.

If you’re having trouble controlling pigeons on your property and you’re looking to explore bird control and proofing options, then you’re in the right place. Integrum are bird control experts with years of experience in the industry. We have worked with domestic and commercial clients across the city of London and the South East of England, keeping properties pigeon free. Contact us today for more information.