Birds of prey could solve Morecambe’s pigeon problem

Pigeon man John Wilkinson feeding the birds on wasteland near his home on Cavendish Road, Morecambe.
Pigeon man John Wilkinson feeding the birds on wasteland near his home on Cavendish Road, Morecambe.

Birds of prey may be called in to tackle Morecambe’s pigeon problem.

A task force wants to control the number of pigeons in the town and has suggested using hawks or similar birds to scare them away or even a cull.

John Wilkinson.

John Wilkinson.

John O’Neill, Morecambe BID chairman, said talks were at an early stage and were aimed at reducing droppings and possible disease.

But pensioner John Wilkinson, known locally as ‘The Morecambe Birdman’ due to his love of feeding pigeons, says the proposals are “barbaric”.

John describes himself as the ‘dad of pigeons.’

His reaction comes after Morecambe Business Improvement District (BID) said they were in early talks with bird groups to tackle the town’s pigeon problem.

“It is barbaric, they should leave the birds alone, the birds are bothering no one,” said John, who lives on Cavendish Road in Morecambe.

“All the birds want is something to eat and I do what I can to try and improve the lives of birds and animals.

“I don’t accept there is a problem, there is a problem with criminals, feral children and criminal damage.”

In Morecambe there is a large pigeon population that needs reducing, said John O’Neill, chairman of Morecambe BID, a task force set up to boost town centre business.

“These birds will always flock to the easiest meal, and that’s provided by humans who drop scraps and inadvertently feed them – they are opportunistic feeders,” said Mr O’Neill.

“Ironically, unlike some other seaside towns, I think our seagulls are pretty well behaved and they tend to be seasonal. Pigeons, on the other hand, tend to roost all year, leave their droppings everywhere and carry diseases.

“Morecambe BID is studying ways we can help assist keep the pigeon problem down but it will be in the longer-term, rather than immediate.

“To eradicate the problem you have to break the breeding cycle and move the birds away from the town. This can be done by way of raptor control (scaring the birds away with birds of prey) and culling.”

Feral pigeons which towns see today are descended from the rock dove, a cliff-dwelling bird historically found in coastal regions.

Millions of these birds are seen across the world and the most famous flock resides in Trafalgar Square, London.

Councils across the UK have control programmes in place to reduce the number of urban pigeons.

But John Wilkinson said if the birds are fed well they are not likely to carry disease.

“I feed them everyday, I use poultry and game feed,” he said.

“They all think I am their dad. I have become known as the birdman but that is only one of my hobbies. I collect things and do research. I am just interested in wildlife.”

Mr Wilkinson hit national headlines in 2014 when he was sent to prison for six weeks for breaching an anti-social-behaviour order to limit his bird feeding habits.

Outraged supporters of Mr Wilkinson ran an online campaign to free him.

A Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) spokesman said: “Feral pigeons can have up to six broods of two per year.

“They incubate for around 18 days and the young fledge after a further 36 days with both parents sharing duties at all stages.

“Feral pigeons are covered under a general licence that permits landowners (or people with their permission) to humanely destroy pigeons, eggs, chicks and nests for the purpose of preserving public health and safety.

“We believe lethal control should only be used as a last resort when all non-lethal methods have first been considered.”

The RSPB is the country’s largest nature conservation charity, aiming to inspire people to give nature a home and secure a healthy environment for wildlife.