It was on a school trip to London many years ago that I discovered the streets weren’t lined with gold. They were splattered with pigeon poo.
Unknowingly, an incident between myself and a pigeon was to be the highlight of the visit.
We got to Trafalgar Square around lunchtime. I sat on the cold stone steps opposite Nelson’s Column and surveyed the thousands of pigeons swooping and bickering over crumbs cast by tourists.
Just as I was tucking into my cheese and pickle sandwiches I was pooed on twice by a pigeon. The first offering plopped straight on top of my head. Seconds later another pigeon opened its bowels over my new coat. Green sludge covered an arm, the stench of which increased in intensity over the next few hours when I carried the offensive article around the British Portrait museum.
Being aged ten, the rest of my classmates roared. Cameras were whipped from rucksacks to capture my humiliation forever. Today I am still the butt of the “do you remember when…” jokes.
Many a pigeon poop victim welcomed the by-law in 2003 when it became an offense to feed the birds at Trafalgar Square and hawking was introduced to deter pigeons. At the sight of a hawk the terrified pigeons scatter across London to avoid becoming lunch, keeping the square free of diseases such as Ornithosis and Salmonella.
Using birds of prey to deter nuisance birds from nesting, feeding and fouling in public spaces (such as city centres, stadiums and coastal towns) is an effective and environmentally friendly approach to bird control. It could certainly have helped improve the Milan Duomo Cathedral and pigeons situation.
Feral pigeon numbers have dropped from 4,000 to 140 and taxpayers are saved an annual £100,000 bill to chisel a ton of bird droppings from Trafalgar Square and surrounding areas.
Children can at last eat their sandwiches without being dropped on from a great height by a pigeon. Nelson has a clean face every morning and rises victorious over the pigeons. Hail victory to bird control and the falcons!