Do Pigeons Carry Diseases?

Most of us don't consider birds to be pests. In fact, many of us hang feeders and fill up birdbaths in our backyard in order to actively encourage them to visit. But some birds, such as pigeons, can cause just as much damage to your property as an infestation of rats, bed bugs, or fleas.

What diseases do pigeons carry? The most common diseases that are associated with pigeons are Histoplasmosis, Candidiasis, Cryptococcosis, Louis Encephalitis, Salmonellosis, and Coli which are transmitted either by inhaling surface contamination, or bites from infected insects which have been feeding on pigeons.

Pigeons may look harmless enough soaring around in the sky, but when they choose to nest nearby, swoop for scraps, and foul on your building, they can cause significant destruction and spread some serious diseases.

rock dove pigeon
Image credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Top 6 diseases carried by pigeons

It has been suggested that birds such as pigeons are carriers of over 60 different diseases, some of which are airborne and can be transmitted to humans through their droppings. It is important to note that these diseases are mostly contracted by those in high-risk occupations such as roofers, farmers, construction workers, and pest control experts. Below are diseases commonly carried by pigeons.

1. Histoplasmosis

This is a respiratory disease that is caused by inhaling fungal spores, found in pigeon droppings. This fungus grows in central, southeastern, and mid-Atlantic states. Most people do not show any symptoms of histoplasmosis, but if you have inhaled a lot of spores then you may suffer from a fever, cough, and chest pain. Treatment is generally not required unless you have been diagnosed with a severe case, wherefore you may be prescribed oral antifungal medication.

2. Candidiasis

This disease is also a respiratory condition caused by yeast or fungus found in pigeon droppings. This disease affects the skin, mouth, respiratory system, intestines, and urogenital tract. Candidiasis is a form of thrush and causes itching, pain, and discharge. You may also struggle to swallow and develop patches of red or sore skin. Most cases can be treated with antifungal medication.

3. Cryptococcosis

This is a worldwide airborne fungal disease, found in pigeon feces. The majority of symptoms occur in the lungs or the brain and include fever, chest pain, cough, headaches, nausea but can lead to more severe symptoms such as blurred vision, lethargy, confusion, seizures, and even meningitis. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease but for mild cases, an antifungal medication should be taken.

4. Louis Encephalitis

This disease is spread by mosquitoes feeding on infected pigeons carrying the Group B virus. When mosquitoes feast on humans they transmit the disease, although it cannot be passed on from human to human. Quite often we will function without even knowing we have contracted St. Louis Encephalitis, however, if you start to experience fever, dizziness, headaches, and nausea and these continue to intensify over a number of days, then medical assistance should be sought.

5. Salmonellosis

Otherwise known as ‘food poisoning', salmonellosis can often be traced back to bacteria found in pigeon poop. As the dust from the dried-out droppings is sucked through air conditioning and ventilator units, they contaminate food and surfaces around them. Signs of salmonellosis present themselves relatively quickly and include stomach cramps, sickness, fever, and diarrhea. Most people will start to get better without any medical intervention after a 4-7 day period, however, if particularly severe, then a hospital stay may be required.

6. Coli

Pigeons enjoy pecking on cow manure, which contains the e-coli bacteria which can cause gastrointestinal infections when passed on through droppings. Signs of e-coli are similar to salmonellosis; however severe cases can lead to kidney-related complications. Treatment is generally given in the form of antibiotics and rehydration medication.

There are also a number of parasites that live on or in close proximity with pigeons that are carriers of other diseases. These ectoparasites also have the ability to affect the health and wellbeing of humans. These include bed bugs and chicken mites which live on the pigeons themselves and yellow mealworms which share their nests.

Recommended: Best pigeon traps

Do pigeons carry rabies?

Although pigeons carry more diseases than your average rat, fortunately, rabies is not one of them. Rabies is a disease that naturally affects mammals only and is more common amongst wild animals such as skunks, coyotes, and foxes.

pigeons transmit diseases

How do pigeons transmit diseases?

Birds such as pigeons carry over 60 different types of diseases that are spread to humans through their toxic droppings. To make matters worse, once the pigeon droppings have dried out, they turn to powder which can be carried in the air and inhaled. Most diseases spread by pigeons are airborne, but just like other pests, there is a range of factors that contribute to how these diseases are transmitted.

1. Faeces

Pigeons are non-discriminant about where they go to the toilet, splattering on benches, buildings, and backyards. And whilst the odd dropping here or there won't be harmful when exposed to large amounts, there is an increased risk of contact with harmful bacteria that may blow in the breeze.

2. Feathers

Nestled between the feathers are where the parasites live. Whilst a fallen feather won't do you any harm, a dead bird scattered across a sidewalk is likely to be riddled with disease and should never be touched or moved without proper protective clothing.

3. Nests

Pigeons aren't the only thing to bed down in nests, certain species of fungi and bugs are also keen to rest here. Make sure you make it difficult for pigeons to roost around your building and watch out for any fallen debris.

Why are pigeons considered pests?

From city to coast, pigeons are considered a pest and not just because of the plethora of diseases they carry.

Their droppings not only harbor the growth of fungus but can cause accidents when stood on due to slippery or hazardous conditions. They can also wreak havoc on your property, accelerate the aging of structures and statues, and when building nests, they can interfere with electrical elements or air conditioning units.

Plus, they are noisy! A flock of pigeons can cause quite a commotion and be hugely distracting and irritating (especially in the early hours or late at night)!

Pigeons also encourage other infestations. Whether it is parasites taking up residence in their nests or rats scavenging for leftover pigeon scrapes, you can guarantee that when pigeons visit your home, that they are not traveling alone!

deter pigeons with scare tactics

How to get rid of pigeons on your property

Where there is a plentiful supply of food, drink, and shelter, you'll find pigeons foraging on unwanted leftovers and overflowing bins. A nest with a view is also appealing to pigeons, who move into the area and swoop for scraps and foul on buildings. If you want to deter pigeons from your property, take a look at our top tips:

Prevent roosting access

When looking for a safe place to nest, pigeons seek out ledges, windowsills, attics, and eaves. Therefore, it is essential that you ensure good property maintenance to block pigeons from entering. Make sure that you replace any damaged tiles and add barriers and other deterrents such as anti-roosting spike strips around windowsills and eaves to prevent pigeons from landing.

Keep food hidden away

Birds, and in particular pigeons, are brilliant opportunists, especially in urban environments. Therefore, it is important that you keep food sources out of sight and ensure that all bins remain safely closed. Be careful of bird feeders as these may only attract larger bird pests, such as pigeons to your backyard.

You should also clean up any pigeon waste from your property as soon as possible using rubber gloves to keep your immediate space free of pigeon waste.

Implement Pest Control Solutions

If you do notice pigeons resting on your roof, frolicking on your fence, or bobbing around in your backyard, you may want to consider some bird control solutions before the situation gets out of hand.

Bird nests are a humane way of deterring pigeons although you must check them regularly and release any caught immediately. Once the pigeons figure out that this is not a safe place to visit, they will soon fly off to somewhere else.

Purchase a couple of fake predators, such as an owl or a snake-like these, and place them outside your property. This is almost guaranteed to scare off any feral pigeons.

owl to deter pigeonsTry a repellent such as an ultrasonic device. These units emit sound waves that are thought to confuse pigeons, sending them on their way but just be careful when using them around other animals and pets.

Alternatively, invest in some gel repellents. These sticky film gels prevent pigeons from perching on top of your roof.

If you are still struggling to scare off pigeons, then call in some professional help and let the bird control experts take over.


Although pigeons do carry a number of diseases that can be transmitted to humans, you can rest assured that this is rarely the case. Unless you have a weakened immune system there is no need to be overly concerned about the implications of pigeon droppings. However, thanks to an increase in urbanization, we need to ensure that good sanitary levels are followed to prevent an avian-flu epidemic from occurring in the future and that precautionary procedures are administered, in order to prevent pigeons from defecating and destroying our buildings.