Barcelona issues €60,000 bounty to blitz pigeons

The Catalan city has declared war on its 'diseased' pigeon population and called for experts to get the flock off the streets.

Barcelona issues €60,000 bounty to blitz pigeons
Wanted: Dead or Alive - Barcelona has put a price on the head of 28,000 pigeons. Photo: Steve Tallantyre

Barcelona's Public Health Agency has issued a new tender worth €60,100 to capture 28,000 city pigeons before the end of the year.

Europa Press reported that this is the second big push to trim the wings of the pigeon population after a 2009 anti-avian initiative resulted in the removal of more than 65,000 birds.

Victor Peracho, the head of the health agency, and Tomás Montalvo, ornithology specialist, explained that a 2006 pigeon census in Barcelona detected 256,000 birds, a number which has since halved because of the measures taken.

More than €180,000 has been spent to reduce the population by 90,000 – a price of €2 per pigeon.

Peracho and Montalvo said that the goal of total eradication was "a utopia" and noted that pigeons create areas of filth which could pose a risk to human health.

Barcelona residents filed 380 complains pertaining to pigeons in 2010, a number which has since fallen to 220.

The battle against the feathered foes has been fought on many fronts with tactics including the destruction of nests, sterilization, and the distribution of public information to limit feeding.

To deploy 50 propaganda agents to inform citizens about the perils of feeding pigeons would now cost the city €1.25 million per year while introducing anti-fertility measures into bird food would require €5 million every six months.

This full-scale anti-pigeon offensive has been declared as for the birds due to budget restrictions  imposed as a result of the crisis.

Experts have announced that capture is the most viable and cost-effective way of controlling numbers but warn that it must be dovetailed with other techniques and sustained over time to prevent population rebounds.

"It's not true that our program is based solely on capturing pigeons – it is just one of the lines of work," said Peracho in response to criticism from some environmental organizations about the technical nature of the plans.

A third tender is expected to be drafted in the coming months with the aim of stabilizing the pigeon population at around 100,000 birds – somewhat higher than the 50,000-80,000 recommended by experts.

This could introduce a major shift in pigeon policy by outsourcing health checks to monitor the estimated 25% of birds infected with the 'campylobacter' bacteria and other pathogens. 

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