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Health Hazards associated with bird droppings

Like all fecal matter (human and animal) pigeon droppings  can contain bacteria that are harmful if ingested, so it is best to keep pigeon droppings  away from food that is about to be eaten and from kitchen work surfaces. 

The fungus Histoplasma Capsulatum, if inhaled, can cause Histoplasmosis in humans. This isn't likely to  happen in the UK because the fungus has not been found in our soil.    Pigeons don't carry or spread  Histoplasma, it is not a disease that can be caught from a bird but under the right conditions (temperate climate, damp acidic soil with high organic content)  all bird droppings can produce an environment in which this fungus  thrives if it is there in the first place

Cryptococcus Neoformans is another fungus that is found in the dried droppings of birds, including pigeons. When dried bird droppings are stirred up, this can make dust containing Cryptococcus Neoformans  go into the air. If inhaled this doesn't normally affect healthy humans but it can cause disease in people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, people who have had organ transplants and those who are being treated for cancer.

Where Do Pigeons Come From

Feral pigeons (Columba livia), also called city doves, city pigeons, or street pigeons, are derived from domestic pigeons that have returned to the wild. 

The domestic pigeon was originally bred from the wild Rock Dove, which naturally inhabits sea-cliffs and mountains. Rock (i.e., 'wild'), domestic, and feral pigeons are all the same species and will readily interbreed. Feral pigeons find the ledges of buildings to be a substitute for sea cliffs, have become adapted to urban life, and are abundant in towns and cities throughout much of the world.

Common Pigeon
Pigeons
domestic pigeon

Pigeons were first domesticated around 4500 B.C. from stock inhabiting the sea cliffs of the Mediterranean. Since then, nearly 150 varieties have been developed, some for meat, some for fashion, and some for racing. The now extinct passenger pigeon (Columba migratoria), originally from the eastern United States, is a different species. 

Pigeons originally lived in high places—cliffs, ledges, and caves near the sea—that provided them with safety. Over time they have adapted to roosting and nesting on windowsills, roofs, eaves, steeples, and other man-made structures.

pigeon nest on balcony
pigeons nesting
pigeon nest

Nesting and Roosting Sites 

  • Nesting and roosting sites are protected from the elements and are situated on houses, barns, stadiums, and grain elevators, as well as bridges, wharfs, and cliffs.
  • Nests in continual use become solid with droppings, feathers, and other debris.

 What pigeons carry

Pigeons carry mycotic, (airborne) diseases.   They carry bacterial, and protozoan diseases.   They carry various worms which live in their feces. 


                                                  Mycotic

Aspergillosis is probably the most well known air borne disease. 

It is caused by a fungi which lives saprophytically in pigeon feces. 

You don't have to touch the feces. Breathing it in is enough.

This disease poisons the victim’s blood. It causes death. 

           Fungus 

Fungus from pigeon poo

Cryptococcosis infects the brain. 

It is caused by a yeast carried in the intestinal tract of pigeons and deposited in their feces. As pigeon coops are full of this yeast, inhalationis likely.

Histoplasmosis is so powerful, and so difficult to detect it was once considered as a biological warfare agent. It is a pulmonary disease but extends to the liver, lymph nodes, and spleen. 

The organism may disseminate to the blood and bone marrow and is fatal.

Of all the disease this one is most often mistaken for ‘flu’ and treated as such.

This is why so many people die of it.


Bacteria

Bacteria found in pigeon feces

 Bacterial 

Erysipeloid most often starts with a cut.   

You don't know where you got the cut.  It hurts. 

You have the sensation of burning, throbbing pain, and intense itching.  You treat it with whatever you have at home. It does not get better.

Listeriosis is especially dangerous for pregnant women. 

It may cause abortions, premature delivery, stillbirths, and death.

Again, one attributes the results to other causes, not to pigeons.

Pasteurella multicida is spread via pigeon droppings or their nasal discharge. The organism can live a month in pigeon manure or three months in a dead pigeon.

Even dead pigeons carry diseases, so dispose of them as haz mat.

Salmonellosis is more than food poisoning. Gastroenteritis is the most common manifestation. Pigeons spread salmonellae as the bacteria are left wherever the pigeons defecate. As pigeons walk back and forth through their mess, they carry the bacteria on their feet.

Many people, especially children get gastoenteritis and do not connect the fact that there were pigeons in the sandbox, perching on those bars the child was touching.

One of the scariest is Yersiniosis. It is a plague-like disease and 

indistinguishable from appendicitis.    Many unnecessary appendectomies are performed.  A perfectly healthy appendix is removed, and the patient doesn't get better.  

This disease can be transmitted by pigeon feces, their eggs, or their ticks.


Protozoan

Toxoplasmosis is attracted to brain tissue.   It can cause mental retardation and death. 

Pigeons frequently transmit toxoplasmosis through fecal contamination, respiratory droplets, eye secretions, contact with infected tissue, or through ectoparasites.

It destroys the brain. 

          Protozoan 

Chlamydiosis is another disease which imitates the flu. 

There is a respiratory infection with high fever, severe headache, and generalized aches and pains. 

The disease can be transmitted by infected ticks, ingestion, or by inhalation of dust contaminated with the organism.

Worms 

Paracitic

There are parasitic worms which live in Pigeon feces.

Schistosomiasis, one of the most prevalent diseases throughout the world, is caused by a water-borne trematode and pigeons are responsible. 

Called bilharzia, bilharziosis or snail fever, although having a low mortality rate,  schistosomiasis often is a chronic illness that can damage internal organs and, in children, impair growth and cognitive development.

It is the second most socioeconomically devastating parasitic disease after malaria. Pigeons eat the snails that carry this disease and bring it from one body of water to another.