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Pigeons On The Pill? HSUS Explores New Ways To Reduce Bird Populations

Pigeons On The Pill? HSUS Explores New Ways To Reduce Bird Populations

If someone asked you to name three things that set life in a big city like New York or Chicago apart from other urban environments, what would you say?

Most lists would probably resemble mine:

1. Traffic
2. Noise
3. Pigeons

Semi-domesticated animals (think: grey squirrels, starlings, and ducks) are attracted to big cities for obvious reasons (think: food, food, and food), but because they carry disease and have a tendency to congregate and deficate in public places, it’s important to keep their populations under control.

A large part of the Humane Society’s work as a national organization is to resolve conflicts between humans and wildlife in non-lethal ways, which is one reason they support the use of birth control technologies, as a means of humanely controlling animal populations.

Successful chemical contraceptives (products that prevent fertilization) and contragestives (products that prevent gestation) have already been developed for a variety of species, including elephants, brown bears, kangaroos, and even koalas.

Most recently, the concept has been applied to the control of bird populations, including geese, ducks, and pigeons, with the development of OvoControl-a kibble bait that uses the compound nicarbazin to effectively reduce egg hatching rates.

Although it might appear that OvoControl would have only positive effects for urban environments, it’s important to remember that just like human oral contraceptives, there is an issue with what happens to them after passing through the bird’s body.

Human birth control hormones like estrogen are turning up in our drinking water supply, and researchers have found evidence that “even extremely diluted concentrations of drug residues harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species, and have been shown in labs to impair human cell function.”

With their free-wheeling ideas about when and where they can relieve themselves (think: everywhere), it’s important to question whether feeding large amounts of chemical contraceptives to wild birds could exacerbate this issue.

Until quite recently, OvoControl was only available for use by licensed pesticide applicators, and though the Environmental Protection Agency did issue an approval for OvoControl for pigeons, they’ve been known to let some toxic pesticides slip through the cracks in the past.

For now, Nicarbazin (the active ingredient in OvoControl) does not appear to  bio-accumulate in the animals or the environment. Once in the environment, the compound binds to soil particles and breaks down over time.

It is reassuring to know that OvoControl has no effect on mammals, reptiles, insects or anything else that might accidentally consume it, and because its rooftop feeding system is designed to only attract flock-feeding birds like the pigeon, it is highly unlikely that it will have unintended effects on songbirds or other likeable flying species.

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Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons - jaykayess

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110 comments

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8:08PM PDT on Jun 9, 2010

Outstanding post by Victor O'hanlon!
I've been trying to collate information about methods of pigeon population control, and, apart from city lofts like the ones used in the Netherlands, none of the others seem to me as humane as their creators would have us believe.
The EPA report clearly states cases of toxicity by OvoControl, especially to Mallards, and one of its components, DNC, can be washed away by rainwater many months before it decomposes, and may well end up in rivers. That's why the EPA only allowed the use of automatic feeders in airports -- however, such restrictions are being lifted, and prizes and awards are being granted by organisations who had the wool well and truly pulled over their eyes.
The active constituent, Nicarbazin, is a treatment for coccidiosis, a protozoal infection that can decimate entire flocks. The constant medication leaves them vulnerable to resistant strains of the disease, which probably explains the 88% population reduction in 28 months. 88% is disproportionate, and in geological terms it would constitute an extinction!
It bugs me to see how little the manufacturers of OvoControl know about pigeons! They say pigeons have a life span of 2-4 years, when it's more like 9; they say they carry disease, when that's a fallacy disseminated by the pest control companies; they don't know that males and females have set shifts on the nest, as Victor pointed out; and their emblematic image portrays a SICK OR INJURED pigeon! Some advert!

12:56PM PDT on May 28, 2010

Oh dear me, its sad really isnt it?

11:08AM PDT on May 25, 2010

Whatever works. Pigeon overpopulation creates its own set of problems.

1:47AM PDT on May 20, 2010

Interesting. Thank you!

1:08AM PDT on May 19, 2010

Interesting, not sure how I feel about this one, though...

4:57PM PDT on May 18, 2010

interesting

6:11AM PDT on May 16, 2010

1. According to the manufacturer of OvoControl, all birds in a given flock consume OvoControl each morning on rooftops. The manufacturer does not seem to know that only cock-pigeons forage in the morning, while hens usualy eat after noon. So eggproducing pigeons do not eat the bait! And other birds can eat the bait on rooftops too.
2. The manufacturer writes that the target daily dose is 5 grams/pigeon/day and that a bird consuming too much OvoControl will not be harmed. Obviously the manufacturer does not know that a pigeon eats more than 50 grammes a day. It is very likely that the male pigeons eat much more than the target daily dose while the females eat nothing.
3. In a factsheet of EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) we can read that Nicarbazin in OvoControl is a pesticide. See http://www.epa.gov/opprd001/factsheets/nicarbazin.pdf
We also can read in this factsheet that mortality occurred in chickens fed 1600 and 2500 ppm nicarbazin in food ration, and depressed growth and reduced egg hatchability was seen at lower concentrations. When chickens die, it is obvious that too much OvoControl is harmful and lethal.

The lack of knowledge about pigeons and birds, the non-restrictive use of OvoControl P and the lethal effect of this pesticide at higher concentrations, are alarming and reason for great concern about our birdlife!

I withdraw my financial support of HSUS and advise everyone to do the same.

2:37AM PDT on May 16, 2010

HOW CAN anyone call themselves animal friends and go hunting them?

2:36AM PDT on May 16, 2010

PLEASE STOP PERSECUTING AND HUNTING THE BIRDS OF THE AIR, THIS IS WHAT CHINA DID! NOW they are in big trouble and have to do the jobs that the birds, animals, insects, plants did. Do we want to be so foolish and continue this GRAND MISTAKE ON A GLOBAL LEVEL!!??? FOR ALL HUMAN BEINGS INTELLIGENCE WE CAN BE AWESOME AND AT THE SAME TIME MIND CONFUSINGLY FOOLISH.. STOP PLEASE STOP HUNTING THE BIRDS.

2:33AM PDT on May 16, 2010

STOP KILLING OF WILD GEESE IN THE NETHERLANDS. STOP THE ABUSERS, STOP THE HUNTERS
Sep 18, 2008 (look how long this petition has been lost!! PLEASE SIGN, AND PUT UP ON FACE BOOK AND NEWS. PLEASE HELP KIA LEAVE THIS WORLD AND CARE2 KNOWING THE GOOD SHE HAS DONE.PLEASE SIGN AND FORWARD.)
Focus:Animal WelfareAction Request:PetitionLocation:Netherlands

CALLING ALL ANIMAL LOVERS, BIRD LOVERS, WILDLIFE LOVERS TO HELP, SIGN MY PETITION,THANKS.

STOP KILLING WILD GEESE IN THE NETHERLANDS.

TAKE A LOOK AT THE VIDEO OF THE BRUTAL TRAPPING OF GEESE AND THEIR YOUNG AT THE LINKS PROVIDED IN THE PETITION TEXT. ALL THESE GEESE WERE TRANSPORTED TO DUKE DESTRUCTION COMPANY AND DIED IN HORRIBLE WAY, THEY WERE GASSED.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/18/stop-killing-geese-in-the-netherlands

Sunday May 16, 2010, 1:44 am
PLEASE FIGHT THE HUNTERS, SO THAT THE HUNTED CAN BE FREE, BE BORN FREE, LIVE FREE AND DIE FREE AND PEACEFULLY OF OLD AGE..WITH OUT THE FEAR OF BEING HUNTED.STOP KILLING OF WILD GEESE IN THE NETHERLANDS. STOP THE ABUSERS, STOP THE HUNTERS..STOP AS MANY AS YOU/WE CAN..KEEP GOING AND DO WHAT YOU/WE CAN AND NEVER GIVE UP HOPE OR ACTIONS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCES.

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