How to keep pigeons away from bird feeders

Guide to keeping pigeons away from bird feeders

Pigeons, also known as rock doves, are one of the most successful species on the planet. Although humans are responsible for the extinction of hundreds of bird species (most notably the pigeon's cousin, the passenger pigeon) this one species has thrived. People have never forgiven them for it. Although pigeons do not pose any more health hazards than other and more desirable bird species, no one seems to want pigeons and so want to know how to keep pigeons away from bird feeders.

How to keep pigeons away from bird feeders? Most bird feeders will attract any bird species in the area, including pigeons. You can buy a pigeon proof bird feeder that only small birds can eat from. Pigeons prefer to eat off the ground, so cleaning the area beneath a bird feeder regularly is necessary.

Aren't pigeons just rats with wings?

For some reason, the pigeon has an undeserved reputation as being filthy and spreading horrible diseases. Pigeon droppings do spread about 60 human diseases – but so do the droppings of every other bird species, according to Medical News Today. If you are seriously considering excluding pigeons from your property for health reasons, then you need to exclude all birds from your property.

If you want to keep birds on your yard, keep down the pigeons and stay healthy, do not despair. Good hygiene and regular cleaning go a long way to keep everyone happy. Well – except for the pigeons and any rodents that want to feast on the banquet laid out for the birds.

Keep your bird feeders clean

If you do have a bird feeder, it is important to clean the feeder in order to prevent diseases, poop or moldy food from getting your feathered friends or you sick. Cornell University recommends cleaning a feeder every week. Some commercial bird feeders can be cleaned safely in a dishwasher. If not, clean by hand with:

  • Hot water and a mild dish soap OR
  • Make a diluted bleach solution with one part bleach to nine parts water
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • If you have a wire mesh or a squirrel dome over a feeder, check these for bird poop or other organic matter.

Will a bird feeder attract pigeons?

Any bird feeder will attract pigeons, if they are in the area. However, some bird feeders are more attractive than others. Since pigeons are doves, they are highly attracted to dove bird feeders, also called platform feeders. These are feeders placed on the ground. Getting rid of ground feeders will not only discourage pigeons, but also discourage rodents that like to raid feeders. Keep in mind that this action will also discourage doves or ground-eating species like evening grosbeaks.

One important note – pigeons are not attracted to hummingbird feeders. Pigeons do not drink nectar, or the sugar and water solution used in most hummingbird feeders. If you only have hummingbird feeders, then pigeons or other large bird species should not bother them.

Recommended: How to trap pigeons

Do pigeons scare away other birds?

On the whole, larger bird species will scare away smaller bird species from feeders, prime perching spots or any other place where large birds want to be. However, pigeons do not chase smaller birds any more than other larger bird species. European starlings and blue jays are usually far more aggressive to smaller birds than pigeons.

Do not feel too bad for smaller birds. They aren't stupid. Birds use a behavior called mobbing which is very effective for chasing away any creature seen as a threat. The little birds of the same species all get together and swoop down on a hated big bird or even a cat and pester them like bees to move the intruder along.

Do pigeons kill other birds?

Although a city pigeon may occasionally peck at a discarded piece of fried chicken, it's going for the breaded coating and not for the meat. All species of pigeons and doves are vegetarians and do not eat birds. Pigeon flocks may chase other birds, but they do not kill them and do destroy other species of bird nests.

However, many common bird species DO hunt and kill smaller birds, their eggs and chicks, including:

  • Crows
  • Ravens
  • Gulls
  • Terns
  • Shrikes
  • Woodpeckers
  • Herons
  • Jays, including blue jays.

Is there a pigeon proof bird feeder?

pigeon proof bird feeder
Example of a hanging pigeon proof bird feeder.

Yes! There are many pigeon-proof bird feeders available. They all generally have the same goal – keep pigeon size or larger birds out and only small birds in. Some feeders are made specifically for small birdy beaks. Keep in mind that if you want to feed larger birds in your yard, then you may have to put up with some pigeons.
pigeon proof bird feeder
Pigeons also need to stand on something in order to feed. They can't hover and eat like a hummingbird. If you use tube feeders, bowl feeders or feeders that have long trays, simply remove them. Small birds can still eat. If there are long perches, shorten them so they are only one inch long, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Is there a pigeon proof bird feeder for suet?

Pigeons have been known to eat suet, although it's not one of their favorite foods because of the animal fat. Suet is especially liked by woodpeckers. Since pigeons need to stand in order to eat, placing a suet feeder on a tree trunk guarantees that only woodpeckers or very small birds that perch on the wire holder have access.

You can also use set feeders set at an angle to make it difficult for pigeons to perch on. There are suet feeders marketed as “starling-proof” feeders which work just as well for pigeons.

Can I make a pigeon proof bird feeder for ground feeding birds?

If you already have a platform feeder and still want to encourage small ground-feeding bird species to your home, place vinyl-coated wire mesh around the feeder like this one offered by Yardguard.

If you do not have a platform feeder and want one, try a Gardman tray and then surround it with Yardguard wire mesh.

Example of pigeon proofing a platform feeder:

Making Underneath or Around the Feeder Less Messy

Remember to clean up any mess or old food every day for health reasons and to keep away unwanted visitors attracted to the mess, like rats, raccoons, mice or pigeons. It's best to clean up every day. Some people like to do this just before dark, when many rodents and raccoons like to come out and explore.

bird feeding tray

Do your feathered friends like eating sunflower seeds? Hulls make a lot of mess which attracts many animals, including pigeons. Try using already hulled sunflower seeds. Try feeding all kinds of seeds without shells. Some commercial bird seeds are called no-mess feeds and for good reasons. They often have hulled seeds and have fewer ingredients birds are likely to toss about and not eat, like wheat and oats.

Feed Foods Big Birds Like but Pigeons Don't

Perhaps you love having large birds like blue jays visit your yard or porch. You want to keep them coming but not the pigeons. Here are some foods that pigeons do not like but blue jays do:

  • Peanuts in the shell
  • Large pieces of fruit
  • Mealworms (you can find these in pet stores and online)
  • Jelly.

Since fruit quickly rots and jelly attracts bugs, keep them out only for a couple of hours and then clean up the leftovers. These foods may also attract squirrels. If you love squirrels, then no problem. If you hate squirrels, then do not place any food out for large birds at all since there is no reliable way to keep out squirrels and let in large birds.


Love them or hate them, pigeons are here to stay. However, you can keep them at a minimum with regular cleaning of any spilled birdseed, modifications of existing bird feeders and some common sense. Pigeons are no threat to other bird species but will eat all the food you set out for other species if given a chance. A pigeon proof bird feeder is your solution.

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