Downtown Pigeon Problem Addressed, Naturally

A kestrel attacking a pigeon last year in downtown Providence. The attack occurred outside one of the ornamental decorations that had become a pigeon nest. (Peter Green/Providence Raptors)

A kestrel attacking a pigeon last year in downtown Providence. The attack occurred outside one of the ornamental decorations that had become a pigeon nest. (Peter Green/Providence Raptors)

By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The revamped alleyway between two downtown buildings behind City Hall has been repaved and lit up with new lighting. And once the pigeon bombarders are eliminated, tables and chairs will be set up outside for customers and residents.

At the moment, though, rats with wings control the airspace above the new lights.

“We’re power washing the alley three times a week,” said Lindsey Hahn, property manager for the Westminster Lofts on Union Street. “Pigeon poop is acidic and it’s not easy to wash away.”

Unsure how to attack the problem, Hahn reached out to Peter Green, a 10-year tenant of the Lofts and a noted wildlife photographer who runs the website Providence Raptors.

Pigeons are nesting in the ornamentals that decorate the top of one of the buildings. Through his bedroom window, Green has watched pigeons paint the alleyway for the past decade. He said there are currently 12 pigeon nests in the ornamental decorations across the alley from his apartment.

Peter Green, standing, and Peter Gagne install a nest for a kestrel in hopes the tiny raptor will scare away the pigeons nesting on the building across the way. (Frank Carini/ecoRI News)

Peter Green, standing, and Peter Gagne install a nest for a kestrel in hopes the tiny raptor will scare away the pigeons nesting on the building across the way. (Frank Carini/ecoRI News)

“It’s really a problem, especially in the spring when the babies hatch and both the babies and adults are pooping into the alley,” Green said. “Hawks go after the pigeons, but they can’t get into the space. The ornamentals are perfect pigeon nests.”

A fake owl didn’t work. The pigeons were scared off for about a week; after that, they were perching on its head. And with poison not an option — new pigeons would take the place of the killed ones and raptors could die should they consume poisoned prey — and hawks unable to feast on the chicks in their well-defended nests, Hahn decided to invest $45 in a plastic birdhouse she and Green hope will take care of the problem naturally.

Green and Peter Gagne, the building’s director of maintenance, installed the birdhouse on the roof last week, directly across the alleyway where the pigeons nest. The hope is that this birdhouse, specially designed for a kestrel, will become a nest for one of North America’s smallest falcons.

Kestrels are small enough to get into the pigeons’ nests and dine on eggs or recently born chicks.

“It’s not going to help this year (breeding season is already underway), but it’s nice to know the building is trying to solve this problem without poison,” Green said. “Kestrels usually live in fields, but they also live in urban environments.”

Green has the pictures to prove it.