Outdoor space is a premium asset (perhaps now more than ever before). When my wife and I moved into a new apartment with not one but two decks, I excitedly had visions of barbecues, alfresco dinners, and relaxing afternoons of intermittent reading and napping. Shortly after we moved in, however, we realized we weren’t the only ones with grand plans for our decks: Several families of pigeons had claimed them as their own, and it seemed like the only only meals that would happen on them would be feasts of regurgitated worms that the mother pigeons fed to their squabs. As we continued to awake to mournful coos and find more eggs in planters, we got the sense that our presence — no matter how loud or imposing it was — would not be enough to shoo the avian invaders away for good.
This was before the pandemic, so I hired an exterminator (shout out to Stan) to come over and help me with our feathered frenemies. Stan told me that pigeons are far smarter than we give them credit for and that fully ridding them from any areas they like often requires a multipronged solution. An opportunity to implement such a solution presented itself when I noticed that the group of baby pigeons living on our deck had all grown up and seemingly flown away. So, armed with Stan’s hard-won wisdom, I did some research and ultimately bought a few products that, when used together, rendered our decks completely free of wildlife. Read on for everything I used — along with a few other things I didn’t use but came highly recommended — to solve our pigeon problem.
Stuff I used to get rid of pigeons
Stan the exterminator may have said pigeons are smart, but they’re not that smart. He told me that even the appearance of a pigeon’s natural predators (like a hawk or an owl) is enough to keep the birds moving and indicate that your porch is not a safe space to raise a family. Another tip he shared: Move the fake bird twice a day (in the beginning) to maintain the illusion of sentience for the pigeons’ sake.
At first I bought just one fake hawk, but a gang of pigeons angrily attacked it. So I bought two more, and found that three of them placed at different points around my decks were sufficient to scare them off.
This tape is divisive, but it worked for me. Some commenters on pests.org (one of the resources I consulted in my research) say that the tape is only effective for a short period of time before it fades and is unnecessarily messy. Stan the exterminator swore by the stuff, though, saying its color and pattern-changing glow gives off a shine that functions as a warning signal — pigeons either see it as an inhospitable home or as the sign of a reptile predator. While I can’t say what our pigeons mistook the tape for, I can say that it worked; I hung it from the edges of our decks’ railings to maximize its movement. Bonuses of using this (for humans) include the calming noise of the paper rustling in the wind and the constant appearance of hosting some sort of party.
This was Stan the exterminator’s favorite solution. According to him, the above products may work anecdotally, but this product’s effectiveness is scientifically proved. The nontoxic sticky gel makes any surface unpleasant for birds to land on, minimizing their contact and thus the spread of their pheromones. Best of all, it doesn’t harm the birds (or any other animals) at all — it’s just deterrence via unpleasantness. I applied it on the railings of my deck and in a zig-zag pattern on the ground where the pigeons loved hoarding random sticks. The initial application worked for about three months before I had to reapply it, but by then, far fewer pigeons were hanging around, because much of their lingering pheromones had disappeared. If you don’t think you need a 12-pack, you can buy a single tube here.
Stuff I didn’t use (but came highly recommended)
This was the internet’s favorite solution. I balked at the price, but in researching, I found that a trans-Atlantic contingent of experts at Pest Strategies, Birding Depot, and the British Pigeon Control Resource Centre all agree that using a device that imitates the natural sounds pigeons avoid is an optimal solution. The machine, according to its proponents, emits bird calls that vary between predator noises and distress calls, all of which loudly and clearly send the message that your deck is no place for a pigeon to stay.
An old-school solution that my super, Sal, recommended. Stan the exterminator has a heart of gold and told us that these can actually really injure pigeons — he says they work but are inherently cruel. Sal had no such concerns, and I am not here to judge anyone else who does not. He told us to line our railings and the floor of our larger deck with these spiky strips. It’s definitely more of a scorched-earth strategy, and one that maybe not only makes a space less comfortable for pigeons but also for any other living creatures that have access to it. While we ultimately decided against this approach, Sal swears it works.
Like the reflective tape that I purchased, these shiny discs (which are often used in gardens) reflect light in a way that is meant to scare off birds. Home-hack website Hunker directed me to these as an alternative to an even older pigeon-scaring hack: Hanging CDs (at least they still have some use). In addition to flashing warning signals like the reflective tape does, the movement and shine of the discs apparently distracts the birds’ vision, prohibiting them from landing effectively. I honestly just liked the tape better — it seemed more festive — but the discs have a slightly more subtle look and are easily attachable to any surface using the included hooks.