Cornwall City Council 

Department of Planning, Parks and Recreation
2013-09 PPR BB
PREPARED BY: Christopher Rogers, Chief Building Official 
REPORT DATE: 02/20/2013
MEETING DATE: Feb 25, 2013 07:00 PM
SUBJECT:Subsequent Pigeon Control Report



Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 heard a delegation by Mr. Mike van der Jagt, an official of the Canadian Pigeon Racing Union, requesting that Council revisit the provisions of the Animal Control By-law Amendment restricting the keeping of pigeons in non-agricultural zones within the City of Cornwall. The matter was referred to staff for a subsequent report.

Council concurred with a November 21, 2012 staff report recommending that the August 13, 2012 By-law amendment implementation be postponed until February 28, 2013 to allow for a comprehensive report to be presented.


That Council concur with this report’s recommendation and a subsequent By-law will be presented for adoption.


Pigeons remain an emotive topic of concern for Cornwall residents. Locally, the pigeon nuisance is persistent and growing; this scenario is repeated worldwide in urban centers large and small. This report’s intent is to present the global perspective on this nuisance and table common coping initiatives, to share reputable expert opinions and to demystify the respective roles that feral and domesticated pigeons may play as public health hazards. This report has been prepared on the basis of our research and analysis as well as active consultation with Mr. Mike van derJagt.

Pigeon Health Risks & Other Hazards

The Animal Kingdom, wild or domestic, is a potential health hazard to humans; the risk increases with frequency of interaction. All wild birds have the potential to pass on diseases to other birds and to human beings. Veterinary and medical experts’ consensus is that the chances of this happening is particularly slim; however, this is of little solace to a victim so prevention is paramount.

Pigeon droppings can carry Salmonella causing gastro-intestinal disease in humans. Rarely, birds can transmit avian tuberculosis and meningitis to humans. Pigeon’s can carry psittacosis spread from infected droppings. Histoplasmosis grows well in environments heavily contaminated with bird droppings and can cause respiratory disease; children are high risk. Pigeon droppings have been associated with human blindness and lethal respiratory disease.

In 2005, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health assured that pigeons pose no greater a threat to human health than dogs or cats and recommended hand washing after handling and before eating. In a different context, when addressing the U.K.’s House of Lords in 2000, the Chief Veterinary Officer assured that the iconic Trafalgar Square pigeon presence presented no risk to humans.

The U.K’s Pigeon Control Advisory Service provides independent bird control consultancy; it’s Director suggests that domestic cats, dogs and caged exotic birds present greater risks to humans than pigeons. The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, the New York City Department of Health and the Arizona Department of Health agree that pigeons present little risk to people.

Potential health risks aside, pigeon droppings deface and accelerate deterioration of buildings, statues and vehicle finishes; as experienced in Cornwall, a heavily contaminated environment of pigeon droppings gives off an offensive and wide spread odor.

The experts and membership associations provide comforting assurances; some pest control business interests contradict them. Professionals can err; passion or financial gain can cloud advocacy. Respect for wildlife and good animal husbandry assures healthy pets, be they dogs, cats or pigeons and reduced hazards to people. The combined effect of regulatory standards and responsible property stewardship promotes positive management of feral pigeon infestations in public and private spaces.

Regulatory Domestic Pigeon Control

Of fifteen Ontario Municipalities surveyed, six were found to regulate the keeping of domestic pigeons. They do not include Brockville, Kingston, Belleville, Trenton and Cobourg, which are municipalities often used as comparators for various matters in considering regulatory upgrades in Cornwall.

Of the six Regulators, three allow a maximum of 80 pigeons; one allows only 30. Ottawa’s 2003 By-law permits a maximum of 40 pigeons between November 1st of one year and March 31st of the following year and 70 between April 1st and October 31st, an increase in recognition of the breeding and racing season. Clarington’s new 2012 By-law prescribes no bird limit and depends on a 1 square meter per 10 birds space allotment to regulate the bird count. The By-laws in cases establish the total birds permitted; they prescribe space allotment, cleaning regiments, distances from enclosures to property lines and forbid feeding of domesticated pigeons when outside of their enclosure. Membership in a recognized pigeon keeping/racing association is universally mandated for pigeon keepers.

In light of the above, we believe the correct approach is to modify the pigeon control measures adopted in August 2012 to the Animal Control By-law. A contemporary Animal Control By-law amendment to regulate domestic pigeon keeping in Cornwall will establish the following:

    the seven identified pigeon keepers be grandfathered in by By-law on condition of presenting to the By-law Division no later than May 1st, 2013 their current pigeon count, proof of membership in a recognized pigeon keeping / racing association and that their pigeons are banded and their bands registered with the pigeon keeping association.

    a maximum of 80 pigeons per property

    pigeon keepers be members of a recognized pigeon keeping association, that the pigeons be banded and the bands registered with the association

    pigeon enclosures – design and placement as follows:

        1 sq metre of loft space per 10 pigeons

        loft to have minimum 30 cms of space under the floor for cleaning purposes

        to be at least 3 m from property boundary line

        no closer than 10 m from a school, church, public hall, retail store or dwelling on a neighbouring property

        be defined as an accessory building as per the Zoning By-law, regarding permitted location in a yard

        be maintained in a state of good repair through regular maintenance, painting and the likes

    pigeon droppings and refuse within, under and adjacent to the enclosure to be removed/cleaned a minimum of twice per week and be disposed of in a sanitary manner that will not create a public nuisance or hazard

    that all equipment associated with pigeon keeping be maintained and kept under cover from rain and snow

    rodent proof containers for feed storage

    pigeons be contained so that they do not stray, perch, roost, nest or rest upon any premises other than that of their keepers

    that pigeons not be kept within or under a dwelling or ancillary attached spaces

    that pigeons be kept in an enclosure at all times except when liberated in a controlled fashion using a one way trap for re-entry

    pigeons be liberated for limited periods and in an organized manner as follows:

        no more than 30 pigeons per flight permitted

        Note: of the 80 birds permitted per property, some will typically be permanently confined to quarters including retired champions or purchased birds likely to return to their loft of origin if released.

        the liberation of flight process be supervised by the owner or a competent person taking responsibility on the owner’s behalf

        be limited to a maximum of two flights per day before 9:00am or after 5:00pm between April 1st and September 30th and 10:00am and 3:00pm between October 1st and March 31st or a flight conducted by a recognized pigeon keeping organization (Canadian Racing Pigeon Union, Canadian Pigeon Farmers’ Association, etc)

    pigeon owners not be permitted to feed or permit another person to feed pigeons when outside of their enclosure

    that pigeon owners shall allow public enforcement officials access at all reasonable times to the pigeon keeping enclosure and proximity for reasons of inspection

    that no pigeons affected with an infectious or contagious disease to be kept unless under special conditions approved by the local Medical Officer of Health

      Being aware of real and perceived public concerns with pigeons, domestic pigeon keeping associations tend to support and scrutinize a hobby with a long established history. Their positive image however is easily soured by the feral lot and irresponsible or illegitimate pigeon keepers.

    A Pigeon’s Anatomy & Flight Dynamics

    The pigeon’s excretion system is different to a mammal. Food processed through the digestive system is excreted from the rectum into the Cloaca so they enjoy the ability to hold a considerable volume of excrement here until deciding to defecate. Seagulls are designed for soaring or gliding; their feet hang down in flight. Pigeons depend on flapping for powered flight; upon take off, they immediately draw their feet backwards under their body to assist with balance, flight and to reduce drag. Pigeons hold their feet beneath the anus while in flight so excrement would land on its feet. For this reason, and contrary to popular notion, pigeons unlike seagulls do not defecate in flight; they do so only when perched or foraging. Once liberated, domestic/racing pigeons remain in flight until returning home.

    Pigeon Characteristics and Effect on Control in the Public Domain

    Feral pigeons take up residence where ample food and shelter exist; they adapt well to an urban scene abundant in food, building ledges, balconies, bridges, etc and they lack predators. Universally, failure is the outcome in efforts to effectively cull them. Pigeons are non-migratory and breed all year, peaking in the Spring and Fall; removing resident birds simply creates a vacant territory for more to move into.

    While nature provides for wildlife, social and opportunistic pigeons won’t refuse handouts and ready accommodation. However, their needs not met, they move on. Pigeon abundance in cities is largely attributable to well intentioned but misguided people feeding them. Only property stewardship and public education can counter this.

    In addition to refraining from feeding wild pigeons, a public education program through the City website/media and other communication will guide residents in deterring pigeons by:
        eliminating all standing water
        blocking all nooks and crannies in building exteriors
        blocking access to attic spaces through eaves and vents
        preventing roosting on ornamental architecture (ledges, decorative features) by netting the area with plastic mesh and using metal or similar to angle ledge edges 45 or more
        Affixing humane bird spikes to roosting ledges, window sills etc
        Employing frightening hanging devices/noise makers on apartment balconies

    As an example of the magnitude and persistence of the feral pigeon menace, the City of Linz in Austria is experimenting with placing contraceptives in the bird feed.

    Basel, Switzerland’s public relations campaign discouraged feeding by educating the public that doing so ultimately harms the pigeons through overcrowding.

    The only permanent and humane solution to pigeon problems is through public education and good property management and maintenance. Some literature is attached to this report on readily available pigeon control products.

    Control of Nuisance Feeding of Pigeons

    A motion to ban wild bird feeding in Windsor, Ontario was defeated at Council; it was judged that the issue was not generating by-law complaints. A Toronto Medical Officer of Health report advised against regulation as the Toronto Public Health Department addresses any pigeon associated health risk. Thus the report concluded that jurisdictions choose to regulate wild pigeons primarily to eliminate the nuisance and property damage large pigeon gatherings may cause.

    The scale of Cornwall’s problem warrants control to manage the wild pigeon presence and reduce or eliminate potential health hazards.

    Regulating wild pigeons is colloquially labelled as a “bird feeding ban”, a negative moniker of the uninformed applied to an essentially sound initiative in impressing on the community their responsibility and ability to minimize wildlife conflicts and menace. By-laws adopted by the Town of Ajax and the City of Hamilton limit residents to 3 bird feeders per property and mandate clean up of excess bird feed and bird droppings around the feeders. Backyards become less appealing to pigeons and rodents who among other hazards can be a coyote meal. Deliberate excessive feeding in broad casting bird feed on private property is forbidden.

    The above considered, a contemporary Animal Control By-law amendment to regulate the nuisance feeding of wildlife on private property will establish the following:
      to forbid the throwing or placement of food onto a yard
      limit the maximum number of bird feeders to 3; bird feeders and nectars to be suspended off the ground
      require that the bird feeders be kept clean and disinfected with a mild bleach solvent and the ground under the bird feeders be kept clean of excess bird seed and droppings
      that there be no interference with the normal use or enjoyment of any other premises


    While this report’s recommendations establish sensible and practical measures to control domestic and feral pigeons, existing by-law staffing resources are such that enforcement will be primarily on a complaint basis only.


    Zoning By-law No. 751, 1969 as amended was further amended in March of 2010 to restrict new pigeon keeping hobbyists to locating in rural districts of the City zoned “Prime Agricultural” and “Rural Area”. This Zoning Amendment was intended to appeal to the community’s pigeon related concerns now being addressed in this report’s recommendations; for this reason and to rationalize our By-laws, this Zoning Bylaw amendment can be rescinded. The Planning Advisory Committee would deal with that matter.

    New Petition

    Around the time this report was being finalized, the City received a further petition from Margaret Dima who is described in her letter as an "active pigeon rescuer". The petition supports a balanced approach to pigeon control matters. It may have gone to Council directly; a copy of the cover letter from Ms. Dima is attached to this report.

    Next Steps

    If Council agrees with the approaches in this report the actual By-law would be drafted and presented for adoption at the March 25th, 2013 meeting; that By-law would also establish an effective date which staff will recommend as May 1st, 2013.


    The Bylaw Amendment recommendations presented in this report are intent on:
      regulating domestic pigeons so that this long established hobby may be enjoyed without contributing to the pigeon menace and ensuring that this hobby does not infringe on the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties.
        regulating wild bird feeding on private property while allowing the enjoyment of nature and a popular pass-time, bird watching. Municipal regulations aside, pigeon keepers and the community at large have significant roles in ensuring that Cornwall remains harmonious and healthy. When encouraged with food and habitat, most wildlife will scavenge and readily adapt to the urban environment; the community is responsible to resist habituating them; nature provides well for wildlife without human intervention. Municipal regulations integrated with public education and community will can ensure positive human/wildlife co-existance.


      February 21, 2013 10:59 AM
      Christopher Rogers
      Chief Building Official
      February 21, 2013 11:01 AM
      Stephen Alexander
      General Manager Planning, Parks and Recreation
      February 21, 2013 11:04 AM
      Norm Levac
      Chief Administrative Officer

      Motion to APPROVE this report’s recommendation and a subsequent By-law will be presented for adoption.

      Moved By: Elaine MacDonald, Councillor
      Seconded By: Denis Carr, Councillor

      Motion to REFER this matter to the Property Standards Advisory Committee.

      Moved By: Maurice Dupelle, Councillor
      Seconded By: Denis Thibault, Councillor