Why humble pigeons are considered threat to health

Health threat? Pigeons roosting on he roof of a building in Horncastle town centre last Friday. Photo: John Aron
Health threat? Pigeons roosting on he roof of a building in Horncastle town centre last Friday. Photo: John Aron

A Horncastle pensioner is calling for a cull of the town’s booming pigeon population - claiming the birds are a major threat to health.

Robert Poole, 80, says pigeon lung disease is a menace to anyone already suffering from breathing problems.

He claims the NHS is spending millions of pounds treating people as a direct result of the disease.

Mr Poole says the disease is transmitted through bird’s feathers and faeces.

He says he has regularly counted 150-strong flocks of pigeons on buildings in Horncastle, but stresses it is an worldwide issue.

He said: “Over the years, we have become inundated with pigeons. They have taken over our cites and towns. In fact, they have taken over the world.

“This humble bird - like other birds - has a disease of the lung. Unlike other birds, pigeons gather together as a flight. The bigger the flight, the more the risk to a certain percentage of the population.

“For example, those people who suffer from emphysema, chronic bronchitis or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which is an umbrella term for both conditions are particularly vulnerable. That is not forgetting asthma and other chest related diseases.”

Robert, who himself suffers from breathing problems, says walking near to pigeons can aggravate any health issues.

He added: “Pigeon lung disease is transmitted through the bird’s feathers and bodily discharge.

“You only have to walk through Horncastle to see the mess they leave.

“They fly in close proximity to trees, roofs, gutters, and, of course, people.

“This disease the pigeons have is scattered into the atmosphere and it is highly likely anyone with breathing problems will be affected.

“Temperature also has a marked effect. The higher the temperature and humidity, the more serious the consequences.”

Robert said his claims are backed by health experts.

He added: “Statistics show one in eight hospital admissions are due to COPD and asthma.

“This makes COPD the second largest cause of emergency admissions and one of the most expensive in-patient conditions treated by the NHS.

“A lot of this could be avoided if we culled the number of pigeons.

“The effect it has on patient health is a severe shortness of breath. This may eventually become very distressing and become more serious with complications.

“I know. I have been there. I was diagnosed with COPD in 2012. Eighteen months ago, I was interviewed by a medical company from London and a lot of the information I have is supported by Public Health England and the Health Protection Team.”

Is it time to put pigeons on the pill or use a hawk to reduce numbers?

Mr Poole says he has tried to highlight the consequences of pigeon lung disease but adds many people don’t believe him - despite ‘the mountain’ of medical evidence backing his claims.

He is calling for medical organisations - and individuals who could suffer from the effects of the disease - to come together and discuss the problem. He adds: “It affects so mAny people - young and old - yet the vast majority aren’t aware of it.”

Town councillors have previously discussed ways of reducing the pigeon population in Horncastle after complaints about the mess they cause.

Ideas have included a cull, bringing in a hawk, or even putting pigeons on ‘the pill’. The council says it has not received any recent complaints.