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Should You Worry About Pigeon Droppings?

By Chris Williams on September 23, 2014.

I live in an apartment building that has had a chronic problem with pigeons roosting on the roof, and sometimes on our balconies. Our property management company doesn’t seem too concerned. They periodically use some scare tactics but then the birds are right back. I’m worried about the diseases that you can get from pigeon poop. Is that a concern? V. M., Millville, MA

Pigeon droppings can be hazardousFirst, let me say that, unless you are up on the roof actually shoveling pigeon droppings, your risk of catching a disease from them is slim. Pigeons definitely can transmit diseases through their droppings, but that usually only happens in specific and rather uncommon situations involving large accumulations of droppings.

Histoplasmosis is Rare But Can Be Serious

The pigeon-transmitted disease to be most concerned about is histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that affects the human respiratory tract and in rare cases, can be fatal. Histoplasmosis is spread to people when they breathe in fungal spores from pigeon droppings that have been disturbed, usually during cleaning or construction activities (see Look Out For Bird or Bat Droppings When Renovating). The actual incidence of histoplasmosis is hard to determine since most people with the disease have flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all.

Histoplasmosis spores grow on piles of bird or bat droppings that have been accumulating for years. Lesser amounts of droppings on exposed surfaces that are cleaned up periodically pose little risk. Certain workers like chimney cleaners, bridge inspectors, building renovators, and even pest control technicians are at some risk when working around accumulated pigeon droppings. These workers should always use precautions and wear respirators when working in roost sites.

Droppings Aren’t the Only Concern with Pigeons

This doesn’t mean that having pigeons roosting on your building is a good thing. If your manager isn’t concerned about the disease risk associated with pigeons, he might need to be informed about the other risks associated with pigeon droppings. Droppings are unsightly and odorous, they deteriorate surfaces like roofs and concrete increasing maintenance costs, they kill vegetation below, they pit the paint on cars below, and they can be slippery for pedestrians, which means a liability risk for the property.

There are lots of ways to keep pigeons off of and away from buildings. Have your manager give Colonial Pest a call for a complete inspection and evaluation.

Photo credit: dingopup / Foter / CC BY-SA

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