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Which came first - the pigeon or the egg?
Alex Elger  , Friday, April 23, 2004

Barcelona is planning to implement tough measures to reduce the ever-growing pigeon problem. With an estimated 150,000 of the creatures invading the city, the birds are causing headaches not only for the local residents who are constantly ducking the low-flying birds, but their droppings are spreading a multitude of diseases. Furthermore, the acidity of the excrement is so extreme that historical buildings are rotting.

Until now, the controls implemented have only partly controlled the growing problem of the booming pigeon population, and nothing has been totally successful. Pigeons are a very resistant, prolific and adaptable species. Bird scares, for example, have a transitory effect because as soon as the pigeons vacate one area, another area fills up.

Italian inspiration
City authorities in Barcelona have decided to pilot a programme that has already been an overwhelming success in Italian cities such as Florence and Bologne where pigeon populations have been dramatically reduced over a two-year period. The project is to be started in Barcelona’s neighbouring towns and will not involve killing one single pigeon. Indeed, it will simply involve distributing birdseed which has a sterilising effect. The seed contains nicarbacine, an intestinal antiseptic, which has the secondary effect of causing a reduction in the production of eggs. The effects, however, are not permanent, and the pigeon will recuperate its reproductive capacity once it stops eating the seeds. The seeds are not toxic nor hormonal and will not affect other natural predators.

Flying pests
Although the urban typography will ultimately influence the results of the programme, it hopes to stabilise the colonies of some 400 birds per kilometre. The Veterinary Faculty of the Autonomous University of Barcelona will be in charge of the control and the supervision of the project. The project is expected to last six months.

Calpe’s calamity
Closer to our shores here in the Costa Blanca, another flying pest is causing havoc for people and the environment: the pati amarilla or yellow-legged seagull. Calpe residents and holidaymakers have been having a rough time for years from the aggressive, dirty and down-right cheeky animals.
Bird droppings fall on cars, buildings, the famous Calpe Peñon, and even heads.
Even the rock-climbing season on the Peñon is forced to finish in March as the seagulls take over and begin nesting. Stories of local climbers being attacked by the insolent birds are quite normal and one local climber who fell was unable to be rescued by a helicopter as it was overcome by a sea of bombarding gulls.  However, the Calpe seagull problems looks set to continue as no measures have been implemented to control the bird populations.


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