Are Pigeons Dirty? The Truth About Pigeons and Their Hygiene

Have you ever walked through a city and been bombarded by pigeons? These birds seem to be everywhere, and many people wonder if they’re dirty or even dangerous. While some people may view them as a nuisance, others see them as a symbol of urban life.

Whether you’re a pigeon lover or hater, it’s important to understand the truth about these birds. In this article, we’ll explore whether or not pigeons are dirty, and what you can do to keep them away from your home or business.

So, let’s dive in and get to the bottom of this question: are pigeons really as dirty as they seem?

Are Pigeons Dirty

Are Pigeons Dirty

Despite their reputation as dirty birds, pigeons are actually very clean due to their fastidious self-grooming. The idea that they are “rats with wings” who spread disease is not supported by much evidence.

Throughout history, attitudes towards pigeons have varied greatly, from being seen as divine to being considered pests. However, the species itself has not changed much over time.

What has changed is their ability to adapt to urban living, which has only affected their food sources. Unfortunately, this has led to their stigmatization and vilification by humans.

Ultimately, whether or not pigeons are considered dirty is a matter of human perception.


Pigeons were once seen as symbols of peace and love, but in the 1950s, it was discovered that they could carry zoonotic diseases that could be passed from animals to humans and back. However, it’s important to note that all animals, including domestic pets, can carry diseases.

Despite this fact, the news about pigeons carrying diseases stuck in the public’s mind, and they became viewed as a public health menace. It’s important to note that it’s highly unlikely that any of these diseases can be easily caught by pigeons. Nevertheless, they were unfairly labeled as polluters and villains.

Pigeons Don’t Fit Into Out ‘Imaginative Geography

The labeling of pigeons as dirty was a result of a societal belief that cities should be clean and well-ordered for the benefit of their inhabitants. Humans viewed themselves as the sole controllers of their city habitats, leading to a negative perception of the disorderly and messy pigeons.

This perception was reinforced by the discovery of their disease-carrying abilities and uncontrollable behavior. The term ‘Imaginative Geography’ has been created by sociologists to explain how people have certain expectations for their surroundings, and feral pigeons do not fit into these expectations. The high visibility of pigeons made them easy targets for this negative perception.

They Have Received A Lot Of Bad Press

Pigeons have gotten a bad reputation due to their droppings, which are both unsightly and corrosive. While their tendency to congregate in certain areas makes their mess particularly noticeable, it’s the damage they can cause to buildings that have really turned people against them.

However, the real problem is the bad press that pigeons have received. Articles in the national press, including one American newspaper that called them “rats with wings,” have perpetuated the myth that pigeons are dirty and disease-ridden. This association with rats has only served to further demonize pigeons in the eyes of the public.

In reality, these claims have no basis in fact and are simply urban myths. It’s important to remember that pigeons are just another species trying to survive in an increasingly urbanized world, and they deserve our respect and understanding.

See also  Are Pigeons Considered Pests? Exploring the Debate


Pigeons are not inherently dirty animals, but like all animals, they can carry parasites such as fleas, lice, and ticks. However, they groom themselves and clean away any parasites they find. During molting, they pull out loose feathers and bathe during the summer months.

It’s unfair to label them as dirty just because they may look scruffy during their molting periods. Domestic cats and dogs are also prone to parasites but are considered clean animals because they groom themselves.

Dogs may get dirty from romping around, but they are not considered dirty animals. Similarly, pigeons are not intrinsically dirty animals.


The perception that pigeons are dirty is not based on fact but rather a persistent idea that has been passed down through generations. This perception is not a result of anything the pigeons have done, and it’s not shared across all bird species. The real issue lies with people and their attitudes toward pigeons.

Thankfully, there has been a recent movement in cities to reintroduce green spaces and reconnect with nature. This trend has the potential to shift attitudes towards pigeons and other urban wildlife, recognizing their value and importance in our shared environment.

With a change in perspective, we can begin to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of these creatures and coexist peacefully with them in our cities.

Pigeons: Are they one of nature’s most disease ridden animals?

Pigeons, often overlooked as disease carriers, can quickly become a health hazard when they infest an area.

While flies, rats, and mice are commonly associated with disease, pigeons should not be underestimated. In fact, Woody Allen’s description of pigeons as “rats with wings” is quite accurate when dealing with an infestation.

Pigeons can carry a variety of diseases, including salmonella and histoplasmosis. Their droppings can also harbor dangerous fungi and bacteria. In addition to health risks, pigeon droppings can cause property damage and unsightly messes.

It’s important to take action to prevent and manage pigeon infestations to protect both your health and property. Measures such as sealing off entry points and using bird deterrents can help keep these disease carriers at bay.

What diseases can you get from pigeons?

Although the risk of human pigeon disease transmission is low, pigeon droppings can still pose a number of health problems.

The most common disease associated with pigeons is Cryptococcosis, a fungal lung infection caused by the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans found in pigeon droppings. This disease mainly affects immunocompromised individuals, such as those undergoing cancer treatments or those with HIV, and can lead to meningitis and flu-like symptoms.

Psittacosis is a less common disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci found in pigeon secretions and droppings, and its symptoms are similar to the flu. Histoplasmosis is another fungal lung infection caused by the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus found in bird droppings.

Ingesting pigeon droppings through incorrect cleaning or contaminated water can also lead to Campylobacter and Salmonella poisoning via fecal-oral transmission.

Therefore, it is important to take measures to prevent exposure to pigeon droppings and to properly clean and maintain areas where pigeons may be present to avoid potential health risks.

Preparing The Perfect Environment For Home Pigeon Keeping

Keeping pigeons at home requires proper housing and care to ensure their health and well-being.

See also  Why Don't We See Baby Pigeons? The Surprising Answer

Cages or Dovecotes:

Pigeons require cages or dovecotes that are suitable for their breed size. Overcrowding should be avoided, and it’s best to keep two to three birds per cage. The bottom of the cages should be covered with gravel or newspaper for easy cleaning, and straw should be provided for nesting and egg-laying.

Feeders and Troughs:

Choosing the right size and type of feeders and troughs is crucial to prevent spills and contamination. It’s important to consider the size and morphology of the pigeon breeds when selecting these items.

Environmental Conditions:

Pigeons should not be exposed to the elements and require a stable environmental temperature of around 75°F. It’s important to keep their living space clean and well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and ensure their health and happiness.

Are Pigeons Dirty And Should We Steer Clear Of Them?

There is a common belief that pigeons are dirty and carry diseases. While it is true that pigeons can carry zoonotic diseases, meaning they can pass bacteria between humans and other animals, it is important to note that many other species also carry these types of diseases without posing significant health risks to humans.

It should be noted that both humans and domestic animals such as cats and dogs are capable of transmitting disease, yet they are not typically labeled as unclean or disease-carrying. Therefore, it is not necessary to steer clear of pigeons, but it is important to practice good hygiene and take necessary precautions when handling or being around any animals.

Additionally, for those who enjoy feeding birds, it is recommended to place bird feeders in appropriate locations.

What The Professionals Say

According to David Taylor, a veterinary surgeon with 50 years of professional experience, there has not been a single case of zoonosis related to pigeons. While there have been instances where humans have contracted diseases from contact with cats, dogs, cattle, monkeys, sheep, camels, budgies, parrots, cockatoos, aquarium fish, and even dolphins, there is no risk to human health from pigeons. The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has also confirmed that there is no danger to humans when feral pigeons congregate in Trafalgar Square.

In some instances, individuals may experience minor flu-like symptoms upon exposure to fungus found in pigeon droppings, which can be transmitted through contaminated water droplets or soil. However, Professor Hugh Pennington argues that such cases are exceedingly uncommon in the UK, and proper hand-washing techniques can prevent transmission.

It is recommended that individuals with weakened immune systems avoid coming into contact with bird droppings.

Why Have Pigeons Got a Bad Reputation

Pigeons have a bad reputation due to the mess they create and the damage they can cause to property. Although they are not a major health risk, their large numbers can be overwhelming and they are often seen as a nuisance. The Mayor of London even launched a campaign to prevent feeding feral pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

Additionally, pigeons can bully other birds in urban areas, resulting in a decline in their population. While their bad reputation may be exaggerated, it is important to find ways to coexist with these birds in a manner that is safe and respectful to all.

Are Pigeons Good for Anything

Pigeons are not picky eaters and will consume almost anything they can find on the street. They feast on chips, crisps, and even leftover burger boxes. They serve as unpaid street cleaners, helping to keep the streets clean.

See also  Are Pigeons Mammals

However, if chewing gum and cigarette butts were edible, there would be no need for road sweepers as the pigeons would take care of it.

Pigeon-Related Diseases

Pigeon droppings may lead to the spread of diseases like Cryptococcosis, Histoplasmosis, and Psittacosis. These diseases can be contracted by inhaling the dust that is created when cleaning pigeon droppings.

The risk of contracting these diseases is low, but those with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk. It’s important to take precautions when cleaning up pigeon droppings to minimize the risk of infection.

Safe Cleaning Tips

Cleaning up droppings can pose health risks, so it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself. Avoid direct contact with droppings and always wear gloves and a mask when cleaning them up. After finishing, wash your hands and any exposed skin thoroughly with soap and water.

Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or cancer, are advised to refrain from cleaning up droppings.

These individuals are more susceptible to infections and illnesses, so it’s important to prioritize their health and safety. Consider asking for assistance from someone who is not immunocompromised or hiring a professional cleaning service.

Small Projects

Cleaning droppings off a windowsill is generally safe as long as proper precautions are taken. It’s important to wear disposable gloves and clothes that can be washed to prevent any potential exposure to harmful bacteria or viruses. For most people, this type of cleaning does not pose a serious health risk.

However, if you have a weakened immune system or are pregnant, it’s important to take extra precautions and consult with a healthcare professional before cleaning droppings. Overall, regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent the build-up of droppings and keep your living space safe and hygienic.

Large Projects

When planning a large cleanup, it’s important to prioritize safety measures to protect yourself from potential hazards.

Protective Clothing:

Wearing protective clothing, such as disposable coveralls, boots, and gloves, can help prevent exposure to harmful substances. Additionally, using a respirator can provide added protection against airborne particles.

Minimize Dust:

When using a high-powered water hose, it’s important to minimize dust by using plastic sheeting to contain the area or wetting down the work area. This can help prevent inhalation and reduce the risk of infection. It also prevents dust from spreading outside the work area, which can help protect others in the vicinity.

Soak and Shovel:

Soaking the droppings in water and shoveling them is a safer method than using a high-powered water hose. Place the damp material into sturdy plastic bags or other secure containers and dispose of it with standard household waste.

Regular Maintenance:

Maintaining cleanliness through regular washing is necessary to prevent future buildup in a given area. This can help maintain a safe and healthy environment for yourself and others.


While pigeons may have a reputation for being dirty, it’s important to remember that they are just like any other animal. With proper care and attention, they can be great companions and even help keep our cities clean.

So next time you see a pigeon, don’t be so quick to judge. Give them a chance and you might just be surprised at how much you grow to love them!

Kathy Gonzales

I'm an author of I have kept pigeons as pets for over 20 years and have written several articles. Here in this blog, I cover topics such as how to care for pigeons, what to feed them, and how to keep them healthy.