I live in a fifth floor flat with a balcony and it pleases me to put some bird feeders out for the local avian wildlife.

Over the past few years though I have experimented with a range of ideas to prevent pigeons hoovering up the food. I don’t intrinsically object to pigeons, but while most birds eat a bit then fly off, pigeons eat every scrap of food in one go – denying it to other birds.

Their excrement is also rather larger and more yeuky to clean up.

One thing I learned quickly is that pigeons have an evolutionary failure in their design – they only work when upright. Most birds can hang onto a branch at an angle. Pigeons can’t. So, placing food such as suet feeds next to an angled branch or pole ensures that most birds can feed, but pigeons are denied.

The problem is that smaller birds didn’t seem that keen on the suet feeders – unlike the magpies and starlings, so how to attract the rather cuter bluetits and robins?

Time to try the conventional bird feeders.

Unfortunately, pigeons near me seem to have been evolving into giant humming birds – and would basically leap up to the bird feeder, cling on to the rest bar, and flapping like mad, knock a load of seed onto the floor, where they would then eat it.

Not wishing to be responsible for the evolution of giant hummingbirds in the UK – I revised the plan.

After some hunting for suitable pigeon proof feeders, I decided to trial a squirrel proof design – well, pigeons are flying rats, so there should be some sort of crossover. Shouldn’t there?

Didn’t work. In fact made matters worse.

The pigeons now had something substantial to cling onto while flapping their wings, and while the model I purchased had a solid floor to stop the seed falling to the ground, the pigeons simply reached through the cage and ate from the holes in the tube for the smaller birds.

Ah-ha!

Cover those parts of the cage with wire – leaving gaps for the smaller birds elsewhere. Nope – while the smaller birds were not detered, neither were the pigeons – they just squeezed their way through other spaces.

In addition to evolving into giant hummingbirds, it seemed the pigeons necks were also becoming more snake like.

Giant grey hummingbirds with snake heads. I doubt future Londoners would thank me for that evolutionary switch.

What I needed is either a cage so large that pigeons couldn’t reach the interior goodies, or… some way of making it impossible for them to cling on to the outside.

In effect, I needed this!

As an experiment, I took some garden plant supports and using picture wire secured them to the cage so that they stuck out at random angles.

Initially, the pigeons seemed confused and several times launched themselves at the newly protected structure, only to come away with sore chests as they jumped at the spikes. They swiftly learned that was a mistake.

After a couple of weeks of testing, I can proudly announce that the IanVisits Patent Pigeon Proof Bird Feeder is a success!

The smaller birds actually quite like the extra spikes on the outside, although so do the Starlings, which may be an issue if you don’t like them. It’s not elegant as a design, but it works. And that is the key thing.

I also declare that any company manufacturing a bird feeder based on my design is FREE to do so, and please do so quickly. Households with pigeon problems need them.

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34 Comments

  1. dotCompost

    Your findings are identical to mine. Even your solution of fixing garden plant supports on with wire [I used cable ties] is my workaround, too. However you will find some flying rats will still knock and rock the feeder to spill seed on the floor. That’s if the parakeets don’t get there first!

  2. Fi

    Oh dear how I laughed at your description of them as ‘Giant grey hummingbirds with snakeheads’ !! I too have a big problem with pesky pigeons, albeit not on a balcony but in my small back garden. They scoff every single scrap I put out for the smaller birds and seem to have a bottomless pit for a stomach. I’ve been scouring the net this afternoon for solutions. The best one I have found so far is using an upturned wire hanging basket over the food (talking about ground feeding here). I might try this. I have even resorted to using a water pistol on them, it does ‘stick it up them’ and get rid for a bit, but of course they come back – with an even more cockier attitude than before……..!

  3. Auntie Doris

    Excellent! While I don’t suffer from ordinary pigeons, thankfully, there are a couple of ginormous wood pigeons in the garden which keep eating all the seed and which I don’t want to encourage (they’ve already shat on my washing!). I shall deploy these defences forthwith (and utilise the excellent ‘ground feeder’ idea too!).

    Thank you Ian!

  4. Fi

    It’s the obese wood pigeons I have as well, 2 or 3 of them at any time – and you are quite right, they sh*t everywhere – probably have to relieve themselves every few minutes in the garden, judging by the amount they get down their necks in such a short time!

  5. Margaret Mariam Rosenthal

    I did successfully pigeon proof my garden one year; but the results were too painful. I crisscrossed fishing line, making horizontal and vertical rows from poles. The pigeons could not see the wires, and would get tangled. And unfortunately, did not seem able to understand what was going on or to learn by example. After 3 or 4 pigeons got entangled and had to be cut free and in some cases euthanized, I took the fishing line down. All of my feeders are weight bearing so they only can get what spills to begin with.

  6. Tanya Young

    I love the idea of your ‘Hellraiser’ feeder.

    Fat greedy giant grey hummingbirds have been driving me mad for years. I have two dogs that are quite happy to chase them but, the pigeons just fly away and wait for the dogs to go and then come back again! The poor garden birds don’t get a look in and at this time of year food is hard to find. I have a bird table so I will have to modify it to a Hellraiser too.

  7. Bird Control Sussex

    I like this idea. It’s awesome. . I really appreciate your work, keep up writing more ideas on this topic.

  8. Karen Liebreich

    Aha, a solution maybe at last! I had got as far as putting the frail plastic tube into the squirrel proof cage, but Ian has gone a step further. I did a few extra detours via anti-squirrel slinkies etc, so if you want more info on what not to bother with, check out: http://www.karenliebreich.com/2012/bird-feeder-survey-squirrels-pigeons-10-cute-birds-0/

  9. Mike

    Could the picture wire hurt the birds though?

    • IanVisits

      Erm, not if you tie it sensibly as any sensible person would.

      You could use string if you are really worried though. Or any other mechanism for securing objects to each other.

  10. tel

    hi

    I’m interested in your design and might try it , just need to find a feeder with a cage as mine has no cage , could you tell me where you purchased your feeder? , also I take it that the sticks must be at angles and not level , the last picture looks almost like the sticks are level?

    cheers

  11. Antik dragon

    I do love the net – every problem eventually gets solved, even the really really tricky ones like how to deter flying shit-rat hummingbirds with snake necks and gulls and magpies and the squirrel that can reach a second floor windowsill. Thanks for your great idea, off to the shed now…

  12. mike

    That is a nice solution – thanks for sharing. In my garden I was getting through a kilogram of seeds. The pidgeons seemed to be able to wrap themselves around the feeder so that they didn’t even need to flap their wings – batrats i call them.

    Anyway a solution that worked for me, I think, it is still early days (two weeks) but the seed is staying much longer – was to remove opposite feeder pegs. So the feeders now only have one upper peg and one lower peg. The batrats needed to use two level pegs to get a proper purchase – it is a quick fix – I will probably use the suggestions above when I have time.

    I hope this helps someone and thanks for this blog I was getting really annoyed with them – now they are just funny again rooting around on the ground :-), though I do like to put food out for the blackbirds, ah well

    • Gill

      Batrats = hilarious!

  13. Ann B

    I have just been browsing the web when I came across this site. I have never laughed so much at all of your comments – I guess because all this rings very true. My problem is not so much the pigeons (I get one fat one all the time and yes, it does shat in my bird bath EVERY day). I know offering wheat as part of the mix of bird food attracts pigeons so perhaps purchasing a wheat free mix would help. However, my problem is the sheer volume of starlings I get. They eat everything and anything in micro seconds. Who said they are endangered – certainly not in my garden!! Purchasing squirral proof feeders has helped to a degree but it seems they have overcome this too, merely pushing themselves through the holes. I need a feeder with smaller holes – any advice please?

  14. Anne Miller

    Can’t wait to try this design! Hoping this will also deter the jackdaws and magpies as well as the wood-pigeons!

  15. 531colin

    Well done Ian, what fun!
    Lots of blackbirds this year, at least 4 cock birds to-day, (one with 5 youngsters)…some on their second brood, I think. My blackbirds get spoiled by being fed currants on their own special shelf under the overhang of my shed roof….no room for fat pigeons. Was meant to be a nest shelf, but that didn’t happen. Strange to relate, they only come for currants when they are breeding, its been going on for a few years.

  16. Jacquie

    Ha ha, brilliant, I am currently in an all out war with a small army of woodpigeons. I have only just recently got my first window feeder, i live on the 3rd floor of a house in central London (already addicted and now have two feeders) and at first I loved the woodpigeons until they became like big galumphing bully’s, eating all the food and flapping their wings to scare other birds and then there’s the poo.
    I have Woodpeckers, tits, robins, blackbirds and Jays who all seem to take turns at feeder, but not the woodpigeons.
    After reading your post I have improvised with chopsticks and they are attacking the feeder every 10 minutes but still can’t get the food! Hurrah! However I think they will bring the feeder down as its attached with suction cups but I am as determined as they are and keep modifying feeders.
    As I speak they are launching themselves at my window but falling off again, so once again I am laughing at them.
    Thanks Ian!

  17. Jacquie

    One more thing, woodpigeons eat everything in my feeders, fruity suet nibbles, seed, everything!

  18. Malcolm x

    Thanks…I will try the ideas mentioned. I sorted my pond out. Then thought it be nice to have a bird feeding station to view & feed all the little birds (robins, blue tits, etc.) from the loads of trees nearby. But most of the time all I see is the wood pigeons stuffing their huge faces and making a huge mess……poo everywhere, seed everywhere and fat balls dropped into the pond!

  19. FLAK GUNNER

    Thanks for the cage with Queen Bodicca’s attachments ! ,this may help to assuage my paranoia concerning FAT ALBERT,(the pigeon)and his cohorts! Thus saving the considerable expense of purchasing a 3.7 surplus anti aircraft artillery piece !

  20. FLAK GUNNER

    I have removed the tray for bird seed,(pigeon heliport) but have installed KITE line SWIVELS on bird seed,and fat ball holders. Watching the emotional angst of FAT ALBERT,trying to get at the seed,is very amusing! I believe the pigeon problem is solved….having put some SPIN,on the subject !

    • SuzieQ

      How do you put ‘swivels’ on the bird seed feeders, what do you mean by that and where do you get these ‘swivels’ – sounds the trick!

  21. Gill

    This made me laugh SO much, thank you! I also live on a 3rd floor balcony in central London and have spent the last year in a battle of attrition with my mutant hummingbird pigeons. Buying one bird feeder after another convinced there is no way they can possibly get to the food, only to be mocked by them less than 24 hours later while they happily demolish its entire contents, leaving nothing for the other small birds who are trying to get a look in. I’ve been found on more than one occasion having a stand off with them saying “I’ll give you a bit but then you have to go away” – nope, pigeon bargaining doesn’t work either. They have no scruples.
    My balcony is so small I can’t really use ground feeding trays, so my options are limited and this is a brilliant idea – will give it a go!

  22. Laura Harris

    I have exactly the same problem!!!!
    This is genius – will try it this weekend.

    However – I have another problem for you…

    I have at least 6 or 7 feral pigeons in my garden, I’m trying to get rid of them. The reason they hang around is if they cant eat off the feeder they wait for the drops from the other birds, they eat the spilled food and mess all over my garden – its vile

    I was thinking of designing a bird tray that they cant get to, so a cone shaped tray that sits underneath the cage feeder to catch the leftovers –
    are you up for the challenge? :)

    thanks
    Laura

  23. Amanda Hopkins

    You may be a genius… I had to buy yet another squirrel-proof feeder, as the previous it-might-work-for-squiggles-but-not-pidgies feeders weren’t top-loading. Got it; set it up with the sticks – and later that day watched Bastard-the-Pigeon sit on top of the old feeder, which I’d left on the patio, looking keenly at the new setup. Ha! A challenge! Since then, I’ve caught him looking a few times, and once sitting on the top of the new feeder contemplating some kind of acrobatics, and once attempting to force himself into proximity around the sticks – but so far the system has foxed him! (Though I will swear that he and his cronies are dropping more guano than they used to as revenge…)

    Even better, the little birdies love it. The first bird to try it out was a robin; the sparrows like it; and the other day I watched a parent goldfinch feeding two noisy fleglings (the long sticks are particularly helpful to learners!).

    Underneath, I have what has had to turn into a rather complicated anti-pigeon aviary, about a foot high, made using border fencing, a couple of frames for hanging baskets, and some on-a-roll wire fencing. (Not very attractive, but we can work on that later….) Bastard manages to get into simpler constructions, but this more complicated version generally keeps him out – and again the little birds like it, hopping in and out singly or as a family outing. I even chuck some seed in there sometimes for them.

    Anyway, thanks so much for this. You really should market it.

  24. Banjo

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to keep the winged doves away. Is there a certain placement of the sticks that’s needs to be done? The doves use the spikes as perches and have an easier time than before. I used a few more sticks. Maybe that’s the problem.

  25. London

    Does this still work? Or have you had to make ay more amendments to it since this design? Im having the same problem as you did- but just think the sticks would serve as extra perches as another reader mentions above.
    Many thanks

  26. Thank you so much for inspiring us to try and repel the jackdaws who are vacuuming the seeds out of the feeder. We have the prototype Ianvisits device in place as of last night :) all best, Joanna

  27. Phil

    I have jackdaws, doves and pigeons around here (they fill the garden if i leave an old loaf out) but none on my feeder – i just have a real simple one (like the first picture) but no perchs at all, the type for peanuts.
    There are little birds at it every day and never have i seen anything larger.
    I imagine that they couldnt get anything even if they tried – the peanuts being too large to knock out and their beaks being too large to fit in!
    The odd blackbird will be seen waiting underneath for excess to drop.
    So perhaps worth trying switching to peanuts! just saying…

  28. Alison

    Thank you for the laugh and the excellent idea…. I was beginning to despair. I don’t even mind the squirrels but these pesky batrat/giant grey hummingbird creatures were driving me ‘nuts’. Even a ground feeder cage could be adapted likewise….Who would have thought that such a simple idea would work….GENIUS!
    I am sooooo excited (yes I do need to get out!) I shall be pigeon proofing my feeders tomorrow. YEAH!

  29. Ginta

    Love pigeons and see absolutely nothing wrong of sharing the food scraps, bird food with them. Sad that people find this a problem. For me it is like racism.

    • Sally May

      Thank goodness someone else out there shares my view of the larger birds. Everything comes into my garden and I love them all. When the starlings descend I just think ‘here comes the gang again’ and remember their miraculous and beautiful sky dance. The babies are delightful. Ginta is absolutely right, it IS like racism and pigeons etc are only trying to survive just like everything else that lives. Get a life you people!

  30. Alibongo

    I have a Guardian feeder which is supposed to keep pigeons and bigger birds away from seed. Great in principle but the flying rats cling onto the guardian and poke their greedy heads through the holes! I have been quite successful with my adaption; I have covered the bigger mesh of the guardian with chicken wire, just around the feeding points and it has stopped the pigeons from reaching the feed. They are persevering, sometimes 3 hanging on the cage trying to reach in, but so far they have failed. I am going to try and fix the chicken wire on more securely and get a smaller mesh too. The smaller birds simply hop into the cage elsewhere and are quite happy.

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