I’m Even More Scared of Pigeons Than Their Poop


I always had a feeling those pigeons were up to no good. The extent of that not-goodness, however, amazed even me, non-lover of bird flocks. 

To say I was traumatized by Alfred Hitchcock’s remarkably horrifying film The Birds would be the understatement of my life. Somehow, I sneaked in a viewing when I was much, much too young. Mom finally caught me at it, but it was too late. My lifelong phobia was already settled in my tiny brain.

Seagulls are the worst. Show me a flock of seagulls, silly name of rock group aside, and I’m heading for the nearest shelter, umbrella and shotgun in hand. (I lied about that last thing.) I’ll grant you that no flock has ever actually attacked me, but there’s always a first time, right?

Pigeons don’t quite inspire the nausea, terror and flight-or-fight response that seagulls, crows and (oh, dear) ravens do. I once encountered a raven — and I do not exaggerate — that while standing on its creepy claws almost came up to my hip. I have never seen a bigger, nor a more malevolent, raven. Or a more malevolent anything. It had its beady eye on me. I backed up around the corner of a nearby building as fast as I could go, and dashed home. I was outta there.

I hardly need to explain, then, that every time hubs and I go for a stroll down Saskatchewan Crescent and down to Rotary Park, I cringe before plunging under the Sid Buckwold Bridge. I seriously, literally duck my head and dash under the freeway, without taking a breath. Emerging on the other side, I exhale with relief. Phew. Made it again. 

It’s at the point now where Ken drags me over to the narrow road, not really needing to see my little paranoid flight, nor deal with it, for the thousandth time.

“Do those pigeons have to roost there?” I ask him. Every time, poor guy.

“Looks like it,” he says, comfortingly. He has long since given up trying to reason with me. Where birds are concerned, I am simply not reasonable.

The city to the rescue! Well, not my rescue, but the rescue of the freeway bridge. On or about May 4, we the citizens learned that those heart-stopping pigeons are not just terrifying me, but upsetting the bridge as well.

It turns out they’ve been roosting there, generation after generation, since the bridge opened in 1966. On average, about 1,500 of the flying rat-like creatures hang out there per season. Over the last 54 years, they have produced 348 tonnes of poop, which has collected in the concrete crevices. 

That, gentle reader, is an incredible amount of fertilizer. 

The weight of it is of long-term concern to the integrity of the bridge, not to mention the ick contained in that poop, notably uric acid. Acid, you know, likes to eat away at and corrode things like cement and rebar. 

In effect, these pigeons are breaking down the bridge, drop by acidic drop. A lovely image, don’t you think? 

The city assures us that all is well, but it might not be if measures are not taken to stop the pigeon assault on our infrastructure. The beasties will be trapped and euthanized; the long-term evidence of their habitation will be removed (can you imagine doing that job?); and barriers will be installed in an attempt to keep them away in the future.

All this will cost us $800,000, but it’s money well-spent, say I. 

Hubs suggests that the guano — I gather it’s referred to as such once it becomes an enormous mass of crap — should be sold as fertilizer to ameliorate the cost. I’m calling it an investment, but I see his point, although I think he’s kidding. You never know with him.

(In an odd aside, I’ve been reading about bat guano as cargo on 1770s ships in one of Diana Gabaldon’s books in the Outlander series. Funny what you learn coincidentally, just when the knowledge becomes vaguely useful. Seems they’d transport it to colonies and islands as fertilizer. See?)

I thought about going down to the pigeon poop site to take a nice picture of the proceedings, if they were already underway, or just shooting the pigeons themselves if not, to accompany this column. With the camera, not the shotgun, which I do not own. Two seconds later, I abandoned the idea. I’d never make it through that little exercise without hyperventilating.

Meanwhile, do please carry on with the birdie and poopy removal. In the future, I look forward to wandering under the bridge while simultaneously breathing. Phew.