Pigeon Health Hazards

Pigeons have become a nuisance at Chelan Dam. The number of birds that have decided to roost at the dam is significant. And, they aren’t tidy guests for their hosts. Bluntly put, pigeon droppings have become a safety and health concern for PUD dam workers.

 Questions? Contact Alene Underwood at Chelan PUD, alene.underwood@chelanpud.org


For the past several years, the numbers of pigeons deciding to call Chelan Dam home has increased dramatically. Chelan PUD employees have tried a variety of ways to discourage the birds from washing surfaces clean, to trapping and relocating the birds. It hasn’t worked. More proactive measures need to be taken.

A similar problem occurred at Rock Island Dam with pigeons and cormorants. After several attempts to divert the birds from the dam, the PUD contracted with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Wildlife Services) to take a more proactive approach. This included the use of pellet guns.

Alternative Removal Methods

Other entities have tried sonic vibrations/noise to disturb pigeon nesting habits. However, because the dams are large and in wide-open spaces, noise is not an effective method for the PUD.

Another pigeon removal method is to use poison. The PUD ruled out this approach as being hazardous to nearby residents and pets.

A third method is the use of lasers, along with noisemakers. Because of the proximity of the dam to downtown Chelan and close-by neighbors, this was not felt to be an appropriate method.

And lastly, netting and/or spike strips that are sometimes used on buildings won’t work at the dam because workers wouldn’t be able to adequately maintain the equipment. The location of the pigeon roosts make this option not feasible.

Chelan PUD Pigeon Removal Plan

Currently, there are two types of traps at Chelan Dam. They are checked daily by the USDA for trapped birds and to replace bait. The progress is slow and not particularly effective.

The next step is to have the USDA contract personnel take pellet rifles with them to shoot any birds that are present. These are short-range firearms and are used only when it is safe to do so. The traps are usually checked in the early morning light and just before dark.

The proposed action starts the week of Dec. 5 and continues periodically until March.  At that time, the PUD will reevaluate the effectiveness of this method. It has worked well at Rock Island Dam.

Human Health Hazards From Pigeons

There are a variety of reasons for wanting to remove the pigeons from the dams, particularly because of their excrement or droppings. Not only is it messy, but it is a health and safety risk.

  • Pigeons carry 40 different types of parasites
  • Pigeons are host to 60 types of infectious diseases spread through dried droppings
  • Dried droppings can become airborne
  • Diseases that potentially can be spread include: Newcastle disease, encephalitis, salmonella and cryptococcosis toxoplasmosis
  • Pigeons carry ticks, fleas and other parasites
  • Pigeons can spread bird flu to humans and poultry

Workers exposed to pigeon droppings are at a higher risk of infection due to inhaling dried dropping dust, or exposure of an open wound to dried droppings.

Pigeons only defecate when landed or roosting, as opposed to in-flight as many birds do. That means that there is an increased amount of droppings where they rest or roost.

For more information visit: http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbb&bdrp.htm  and http://www.ebssurvey.co.uk/news/14/63/Pigeon-Infestation-Health-Hazards-in-Buildings.html