Water source draws pigeons to Casa Grande community causing illness, property damage

Article Shared From: TriValleyCentral.com

Courtesy of a Mission Royale resident, Pigeons leave quite a mess on the roofs of some Mission Royale homes last month in Casa Grande.

Written By: Melissa St. Aude

 

When Lyle Roorda bought his home in the Mission Royale community in 2006, he did not anticipate sharing his house with dozens of pigeons.But despite Roorda’s best efforts to eradicate them, the pigeons continue to nest on his roof. At last count, he had at least 30 or 40 pigeons living on top of his house and the mess they create — feathers and droppings as well as the maggots and other insects that live and breed in the bird debris — has become intolerable and a health hazard, he said.

“It’s a major problem,” Roorda said. “And it’s getting worse. The mess they leave behind is sickening.”

Roorda is not alone. Throughout Mission Royale, flocks of problem pigeons have settled in.

A nonmigratory bird, urban pigeons are a common problem, especially in the Southwest, but some Mission Royale residents estimate the number of birds living in their community numbers in the thousands.

“When I get up at 5 a.m., I see them on the roofs. When they all fly off at the same time, the sky turns black,” said resident Richard Condray.

Another resident said he sees the birds lined up on the peaks of houses when he takes his morning walks.

“One morning, I counted 200 birds on just one street,” he said.

It is easy to understand why the pigeons enjoy life in Mission Royale. The locale provides the birds with easy access to water from the community’s ponds, plenty to snack on at nearby dairies and the shopping mall, and hundreds of sun-warmed tile roofs on which to build a nest.

But some residents say that the large pigeon population is more than a nuisance, it’s a health concern.

Health concern

“We are a [age] 55 and over community,” said Elroy Bessler. “These birds carry human diseases. It’s a huge issue.”

He worries about the frail and elderly people in the community who are exposed to the bird droppings, nest debris, maggots and other issues associated with birds.

Pigeons can carry germs that make people and pets sick.

The most common illnesses associated with pigeons are the fungal diseases histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Humans become exposed to the disease-causing fungi by breathing in dust from dried bird droppings that become airborne when pigeon nests are disturbed, according to the health agency.

Pigeons can also carry viruses and bacterial infections including some that are transmitted by mosquitoes, according to the CDC.

Some residents have hired professional pigeon control companies to remove birds and nests from their homes and install pigeon deterrents such as wiring, nets or spikes, but some say that nothing works.

Property damage

“They always come back,” said Nancy Urias.

Urias has lived in Mission Royale for six years and said it wasn’t until this year that dozens of birds began nesting on her roof and it quickly became bothersome.

“The smell was the first thing I noticed — the smell and the noise,” she said. “The droppings get everywhere.”

Pigeon droppings contain uric acid, which can destroy painted surfaces.

“The droppings have ruined the patio furniture and even the screen door,” Urias said.

Condray also has paid a professional to remove birds and clean his roof.

“It’s not an expense I expected when I moved here,” he said. “The birds weren’t a problem until a few years ago.”

Some residents have advocated poisoning the birds, while others are opposed to that method, saying that pets in the area may inadvertently become sick by eating a poisoned bird.

“It’s one thing to worry about the pet population, but we should worry more about the human population and the diseases they’re exposed to by these birds,” Bessler said.

Attracting flies

In addition to the health issues related to the bird droppings, residents like Roorda worry about secondary germ transmissions from the flies, maggots, mosquitoes and other insects that quickly take up residence in or around the bird debris, then find their way into the homes.

“When we first moved here, we didn’t see too many flies,” Roorda said. “Now, my house always has flies in it.”

Unlike many other birds, urban pigeons do not migrate and they are not native to Arizona. Experts believe the bird was introduced to the area by Europeans who used pigeons as a food source and as messengers.

As they are not considered wildlife, people are free to hunt them year-round, according to a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

There are also no rules prohibiting disposing of the birds, relocating them or poisoning them.

Dove dilemma

However, urban pigeons are closely related to doves. The two species often live in close proximity to one another and consume the same food. While it is legal to poison an urban pigeon, regulations prohibit poisoning doves or hunting them out of season, according to Arizona Game and Fish.

Band-tail pigeons, which often resemble urban pigeons, are a native species and hunting them out of season or poisoning them is also prohibited.

To avoid inadvertently poisoning a dove or other bird, residents should contact a licensed professional for help controlling problem pigeon populations, the spokesman for Game and Fish said.

Residents on their own

Some of the Mission Royale residents have looked to the city for help in controlling the birds and contacted Casa Grande Deputy City Manager Larry Rains.

“I have spoken with several homeowners from the community and have seen the pictures of the damage that is being caused by the birds,” Rains said.

He said pigeons are a common problem throughout the area.

“While maybe not to the extent that it appears to be in Mission Royale, it is an issue that many homeowners within the region deal with,” Rains said.

But he said homeowners throughout the community are ultimately the ones responsible for controlling pests on their property, including pigeons.

In most cases, unless individual community association guidelines state otherwise, homeowners are under no obligation to remove birds from their property.

“There is nothing in the code that requires homeowners to eradicate or control the birds, nor are there any penalties if they don’t,” Rains said.

Linda Russo, the manager for Mission Royale, said she understands that residents are concerned about the birds as she has personally fielded complaints from homeowners. In Mission Royale, homeowners are expected to control bird populations on their own property while the homeowners association is working to minimize the bird count in the common areas, Russo said.

“We’re doing what we can in the common areas and we’re working with the golf course,” she said.

What’s being done

The community association has hired a bird trapper to humanely trap and relocate the birds from some of the community’s common areas and as a result, Russo expects the number of pigeons to soon decrease.

“But pigeons will always be with us. We can minimize the populations but we can’t completely eliminate them,” she said.

Roorda said he is frustrated that so far, nothing has helped to deter the birds from nesting on his or other roofs throughout the community. But, he said, he will keep trying to rid at least his home of the birds.

“I love being here,” he said. “I am not going to be shoved out by pigeons, maggots and flies.”

GOT PIGEON PROBLEMS? Because urban pigeons are not a protected species there are no regulations prohibiting hunting them year-round or poisoning them, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. But the agency cautions against poisoning pigeons because doves and other protected species may inadvertently consume the poison. In Casa Grande, city code prohibits shooting anything within city limits with any firearm, BB gun, air gun, pellet gun, dart gun, slingshot, gas-operated gun or any similar gun or instrument.

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