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Spain declares war on pigeons with net catapult

Spain has a pigeon problem, and some cities are recruiting private pigeon catchers to trap the rats-with-wings using special net catapult devices.

The technique involves two people and a catapult-sprung net device. One person feeds the pigeons to make sure that they are gathered neatly into a small space, while the other angles the net catapult. Once the birds are in place, the net is released over the birds to trap them before they can fly away.

Barcelona city council has declared pigeons to be a “plague” and has issued a tender to catch and cull 65,000 of them over the next 18 months -- 25% of the pigeon population. This represents a significant mark-up from last year’s already-impressive cull of 40,000 pigeons.

The birds have been singled out for spreading diseases and for causing damage to buildings thanks to their highly corrosive droppings which can damage stone architecture. Most culling methods involve nets and cage traps in the busiest areas and then asphyxiation with carbon dioxide.

Some cities, such as Zamora, employ less aggressive forms of pigeon-removal. Zamora distributes large cages in strategic points in the city filled with wheat to attract the animals. Once caught, the pigeons are subjected to a health check. Sick birds are slaughtered, while healthy ones are moved out of the city. This technique has helped reduce the pigeon population by 80% since 2004.

Over in the UK, we are similarly hostile towards urban pigeons. Ken Livingston declared war on the pigeons when he became Mayor of London in 2000 and passed a bylaw making it illegal to feed them.

Trafalgar Square was once famous for hosting the best-fed pigeons in the land, but repairing the damage to Nelson’s Column and the square caused by pigeon droppings costs £140,000 per year. Hawks have been occasionally introduced to the square to scare them away.


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