Lancaster University

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New Trials to Test Use of Deterrents on Pigeon Predators

02/21/2001 15:29:33

Lancaster University has won a contract from pigeon fanciers to look into the killing of racing pigeons by Sparrowhawks and Peregrines. Such predation is a nationwide problem for pigeon fanciers, who regularly have their prized pigeons taken from around, and in some cases, from within, their lofts.

Peregrines are predominant in Scotland, Cumbria, Wales, Devon and Cornwall, where their numbers have increased significantly since the last census in 1991.

Pigeon Fanciers have announced a £32,000 contract to Dr Ian Hartley, from the Department of Biological Sciences at Lancaster University, to conduct trials of legal deterrents around pigeon lofts to deter sparrowhawks and peregrines.

The Government's Raptor Working Group Final Report in February 2000 made several recommendations for parties who were disadvantaged by the influence of birds of prey on their livelihoods and leisure. Despite the reservations held by the Confederation of Long Distance Racing Pigeon Unions of the Great Britain and Ireland as to the utility of the conclusions regarding peregrines, four recommendations were made to pigeon fanciers to help overcome the disastrous effect peregrines and sparrowhawks have on their lofts. This project will investigate two of these factors; deterrents such as balloons and sonic devices at lofts, and deterrents which are attached to the pigeons themselves, such as bells, small shining discs or bright coloured transfers which add markings to pigeons' wings.

Trials will commence in March, in South Wales. Dr Ian Hartley said "The research in the field will be carried out by Dr Andrew Dixon and we are pleased that the Royal Pigeon Racing Association has chosen to give us the contract to carry out this project. We will independently establish whether the deterrents suggested by the Raptor Working Group are effective in reducing the risk of pigeons being taken by birds of prey. Pigeons will be fitted with small devices such as reflective discs or wing transfers which look like large eyes from the point of view of an attacking falcon. The idea is that the attacking bird of prey will be put off by the glinting of light on the disks or the appearance of large, frightening eyes on its prey. The same sort of defence systems have evolved naturally in many insects (for example Peacock butterflies), so they may well work for pigeons too. Attacking birds of prey are suddenly faced with the 'eyes' of a bird much larger than themselves and they should be put off the attack

for at least long enough for the pigeons to make their escape."

Peter Bryant, Secretary to the Confederation, said "Pigeon Fanciers are pleased that this research is being undertaken. It will show the Government and the protectionists that we are really concerned about the slaughter of our pigeons by these birds of prey and that we are prepared to do something tangible about the problem. It may also be of assistance to those organisations that are concerned about the numbers of songbirds taken by sparrowhawks."