Human health and environmental implications arising from the presence of pigeons in the urban environment

DOI: 10.32749/

SEABRA, Eneyda Cristina Mourão [1], OLIVEIRA, Euzébio de [2]

SEABRA, Eneyda Cristina Mourão; OLIVEIRA, Euzébio – Human health and environmental implications arising from the presence of pigeons in the urban environment – Magazine Multidisciplinary Scientific Knowledge Center – Vol. 2. Year. 1. May. 2016, pp. 106-128 – ISSN:0959-2448


The survey was conducted on State school “d. Helena Guilhon”, situated in the Satellite Assembly, analyzing the presence of the domestic pigeon (Columba Livia domestica), their behavior and distribution at school. They analyzed the possible problems on human and environmental health that this species can cause, when in great quantities, as well as control measures and prevention methods. Photographic records were carried out to demonstrate the direct contact that these birds have with students and other people from school. Were also analyzed the possible damage caused by faeces heritage of these animals. Interviews were carried out for recognition of the students ‘ design with respect to pigeons. To changes in habits of students in the school were seminars for clarification regarding the problems caused. There has been intense presence and activity in school. Currently the number of pigeons is great, and we realized that the factors that cause these proliferate on the site are: plenty of food, water and good places for breeding.

Keywords: Pigeons, school, diseases, prevention


Pigeons are birds of the order Columbiformes Columbidae family and genus Columba that features more than 50 species in the world and a great diversity as for the color of the plumage, size and habit. The domestic pigeon (Columbia Livia domestica) is a species of bird native to the Americas. Are considered three varieties of pigeons: Rock Pigeon, domestic pigeon and Squab. The Urban Pigeon is descended from escaped domestic pigeons of captivity and sire. He originated from Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Asia, was introduced in Brazil by order of d. João VI in order to decorate the cities. Once removed from their natural habitat and introduced in the urban environment, these birds have lost the behavior of native species, being considered exotic (NANI, 2003).

For many people the pigeons are birds that symbolize peace and are widely used in public and religious events, because they represent the divine Holy Spirit. The pigeons, as well as other birds, are admired for their delicacy and beauty. In addition to the symbolic values, the pigeons were used as messengers or carry spy cameras, mainly in the two world wars. Also important in cooking of some European countries (THOMAS, 1988).

Today the birds are found in many cities and in the countryside. In many countries the pigeons are part of the local landscape as the Piazza San Marco (Venice), in Trafalgar Square (London), on Jackson Square (New Orleans). Being often a draw for locals and tourists who visit these places. In Brazil are also found in plazas and other locations such as the Praça da Bandeira (Campina Grande) and in Bethlehem, according to Roberto Brito (Zoonoses), greater concentration of these animals are the Mall, the area of Ver-o-Peso, the square of the Republic, in addition to schools and condominiums, where there is a large supply of food. And being that birds are part of these landscapes, many people who spend or live nearby play foods attracting growing numbers for the location. The domestic pigeon has adapted very well in urban areas by the ease of food and shelter (NUNES and MIRANDA, 2010).

These animals measure approximately 38 cm, are very sturdy and have a amazing census Director. Feed primarily of grains, such as corn, barley and oats, but adapt easily to food scraps that are like oat bran bread, beans and rice. For this and other reasons are popularly called as “winged rats” (NUNES and MIRANDA, 2010).

As for reproduction, the pigeons are monogamous. The reproductive cycle of these birds is regulated by the availability of food. In urban centres the domestic pigeon breeding takes place year-round, except at the time of change of feathers. The female usually lays two eggs, approximately 12 days after mating and hatching occurs for a period of 17 days (NANI, 2003; Nunes and MIRANDA, 2010).

The domestic pigeons remain close to human habitations, which can cause serious disorders, because damage various types of structures with their feces, which are acidic. In studies conducted in some Brazilian States, it was found that in places that serve as shelter to these birds, such as church towers, tall buildings, the roofs of houses and schools, there is a high index of fungi, found mainly in the feces, which remain viable to infection for a period of up to two years, causing various diseases such as Cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis, psittacosis, salmonellosis and allergies. Cause problems with respect to ectoparasites such as lice, mites and fleas (NUNES and MIRANDA, 2010).

Second/(2007), in many places the domestic pigeon has already reached the condition of urban plague, due to their overpopulation, causing economic losses and risks that represents public health and population control. Therefore, it is necessary to warn the population about their role as co-responsible for the proliferation of these birds, because some attitudes collaborate to maintain the life of these animals in urban environments and the present work had as objective to analyze the implications on human and environmental health arising from the presence of pigeons in the school environment.


The present work was carried out in different steps. At first they were applied questionnaires satisfaction diagnosis issues concerning the presence of pigeons in the school environment. This included some points as: design of the students regarding the presence of birds at school, degree of awareness about the possible diseases related to pigeons, and whether they had attitudes that contributed to the permanence of these sinantrópicos animals in the school environment. Done the work of analysis on the level of knowledge of students about the topic, we leave for the second time.

The information obtained by the application of questionnaires and interviews provided the subsidies for the creation of graphics.

In the second stage methodology were selected two classes of 2nd year of high school the morning and afternoon shifts to conduct research related to diseases caused by pigeons, as well as the ways of prevention and clean-up of the sites where the birds are established. Surveys were carried out by students at school for observation of possible nesting sites and habitats frequented by pigeons, in addition, assessed the level of degradation of the school due to the pigeon droppings, which are acidic. At the same time were taken pictures of these locations for later demonstration.

These students have held lectures for the other classes in the morning and the afternoon and the cleaning crew and the copa, thus helping to achieve the objectives of the work.

In the last step of the work we carry out jointly with students organizing a leafleting in the surroundings of the school in order to disclose the contents worked on the project, so the clarification of the population about the risks and possible prevention of diseases caused by pigeons.


The present work was held at the State School of primary and secondary education “Dona Helena Guilhon”, situated in the Satellite Assembly, WE-5 S/N, bairro coconut tree.

The school was founded in 1974, through the Decree n° 9,495, during the Government of Fernando José Leão Guilhon, and inaugurated on 19 March 1975. His name was a tribute to the mother of the Governor of the State of Pará.

Created to serve the community of the whole satellite, built basically by servants of the State, currently receives students from several surrounding communities as: Ariri, sidereal, Seville and other more distant.

When its Foundation, featured only 05 (five) classrooms and 03 (three) dependencies. It currently has 19 classrooms and other dependencies.

The school consists of three blocks of classrooms. In addition to these blocks, has the Management Pack and the teachers ‘ Lounge, the area of the canteen and students ‘ nutrition and the block of the computer labs and multidisciplinary. These last two were founded in the year 2008 and noted the absence of pigeons that are relatively new buildings.



Making a historical approach on the relationship of man with the domesticated animals, from the end of the 16th century began the first movement in respect to animals, since before were common attitudes of cruelty against them, including children tortured living creatures without any sorrow (THOMAS, 1988).

Since then slowly was creating a design of respect for animals, trying to even some measures for the protection of species in threat of extinction. In this context, at the beginning of the modern period, was growing concern with environmental theories, since the beginning of industrialization in England noted the increasing ownership of natural resources without any future, causing concern, after decades, the scarcity of some of these resources and serious environmental problems (Smith, 2006).

Due to this environmental problem, from the decades of 60 and 70 began the awakening in part of the population of developed countries, the interest in issues of conditions of changing the natural environment of the planet. In parallel with the increasing concern with the protection of animals, both domesticated as those used at the service of humanity (Smith, 2006).

Different positions if they have the respect of urban pigeons. Since antiquity these birds were used by rulers as message transmitters, even in the Persian Empire to give rise to a branch of Public Administration. In the first world war were used more than 30,000 carrier pigeons on the frontlines. This close relationship of pigeons to humans remains to this day a incorporation of these birds to the landscape of squares and parks of various towns, being common, people admire and feed them without any perception of health risks that can cause (V, 2004).

Parallel to the position of the majority of the population, in which the only pigeon is seen as a nice, harmless animal, symbol of purity and peace, has the position of doctors infectologistas who warn about the risk of direct contact with these birds, is in squares, parks, schools or the Fanciers, who are the creators of pigeons (NUNES and MIRANDA, 2010).



The Cryptococcus neoformans, is a yeast fungus, capsulated usually found in soil contaminated with Pigeon droppings. Is one of the etiologic agents of Cryptococcosis, which is a serious Mycosis that occurs preferentially in immunocompromised individuals. The infection to humans occurs by contact with pigeons or through inhalation of environmental propagules in the form of yeast. The symptoms are usually fever, chest pain, hemoptysis, granulomatous mass (single or multiple nodules in the Rx), papules and abscesses on the skin, with further ulceration, headache, stiffness in the neck, visual disturbances, cripotocócica meningitis (almost always fatal if not properly treated) (FARIA et al., 2010).

The Cryptococcus neoformans has the ability to colonize the lining of the pigeon chat without causing disease, due to the high temperature of your body, being natural parasite of these birds. These animals being asymptomatic are seen always as healthy for the people who create or simply feed. Therefore, hinders a possible diagnosis or treatment, increasing the possibility of transmission to persons who come into contact with these birds (QIU et al., 2008).

Note, in several medical reports, the Association of Cryptococcosis with patients who are suffering from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and the vast majority is confirmed the presence of pigeons around the residence of patients. This opportunistic agent infects leucêmicos also, transplanted with tumors, among others (DO et al., 2010).

The shape of meningoencefálica Cryptococcosis is the most frequent, so early diagnosis is very important to avoid a possible death due to this pathogen.


Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a dimorphic, Histoplasma capsulatum. This fungus presents way filamentosa in temperature below 30ºc, composed of hyphae hyaline, microconidia and macroconídios. It has been found in faeces of birds and bats and grow well in soils with high content of nitrogen (CURY et al., 2001).

The fungus Histoplasma capsulatum infection happens mainly through inhalation of propagating material suspended in the air, affecting via asymptomatic infections and can cause lung or not. All the clinical manifestations are similar to tuberculosis, so you need a more detailed examination, particularly laboratory. In a healthy host, the infection is usually asymptomatic, but this fungus appears as an opportunistic pathogen in transplant patients, leucêmicos, users of antibiotics and especially in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (UNIS et al., 2004).


The psittacosis is caused by intracellular gram-negative bacterium Chlamydia psittacie binding is characterized by mild symptoms beginning with disease and nonspecific like fever, headache, myalgia (muscle pain), chills and cough, also the upper airway infections, being difficult to differentiate from pneumonia caused by other pathogens. Early diagnosis is very important because the disease can evolve and take the patient to death. This disease was first reported in 1893 by Morange who described an infectious agent transmitted by parrots. Today it is known that humans are infected by the organism Chlamydia psittaci inhalation, when in contact with infected birds (MOSCHIONI et al., 2001).

In several cases of contamination with this bacteria, described by medicine, one of them occurred in Medina, Minas Gerais. A 16-year-old student was hospitalized with a dry cough, high fever, malaise, myalgia, diffuse abdominal pain, among other symptoms. The clinical picture of the patient had a progressive worsening having to be subjected to intubation in Central intensive care (ICU). It was reported by his family that the young man made creation of pigeons. On the exposed, tracheal secretion was taken and verified the presence of Chlamydia psittaci. After the proper treatment with appropriate medication and hospitalization of 23 days, the patient was in good health. Therefore, it can be seen that this bacteria is transmitted to humans primarily through contact with birds including the homing pigeons. Chlamydia psittaci excreted in large numbers in the feces, urine, saliva, secretions and feathers (MOSCHIONI et al., 2001).


Salmonella are gram-negative bacilli that can reside in the intestinal tract of several mammals, birds and reptiles. In adult birds salmonellosis is asymptomatic, but continually secrete Salmonellapelas feces. The first report of salmonellosis in poultry was in the last century in an outbreak of enteritis in pigeons (SILVA, 2004).

Current studies have shown that the greatest source of Salmonella infection for the man are poultry, as pigeons. This bacteria causing salmonellosis normally colonize the gastrointestinal system of certain animals, so the main way of infection is spread through the feces, i.e. by extreme lack of hygiene in the food handling (NANI, 2003).


The population of pigeons from one location increases through births and migrations. The breeding of these birds time is relatively short and each couple breeds about five times a year, generating about of 40 puppies in five years, which is the average life of these birds in urban centers. This playback rate increases considerably with the abundance of food. Therefore, one of the most effective measures for control of these true urban pests, would avoid feeding them, so you can walk away from the scene, moving in search of food. Other effective control measures are restricting places of shelter and reproduction. It is extremely important to the fence of the spaces where the pigeons are installed and can be performed through plastic screens, sidings or plaster (NAQVI and MARTINEZ, 2010).

Some measures can be applied to prevent the landing of the pigeons in those rooms where lodge and reproduce. One of them is the installation of pointy type rods “Porcupine” (/, 2007). In addition, you can install nylon yarn in landing sites, as shown in the figure below, do cause feeling of instability for the pigeons, causing his removal.

Source: Urban Pigeons management Primer
Source: Urban Pigeons management Primer

You can also make use of repellent to birds, which is a product of polisobutileno-based thickener, it keeps these local animals. The educational lectures are also of utmost importance that the total clearance of the pigeons of the school the measures taken must be ongoing, such as cleaning the snack and elimination of sources of water and food (V, 2004).

A quote that stands out, made by the veterinarian of the animal Center of the municipality of Bethlehem, Roberto Brito (2010), makes the following reference:

Are two basic criteria that prevent pigeons to settle in urban areas: a is not giving food and the other is not to offer shelter to them. In addition to the damage to health still has that disorders they may generate as clogging of gutters by feces and uncomfortable with the cooing, that’s the noise emitted by the animal (BRITO, 2010, p. 01).

Cleaning of premises where there is an accumulation of pigeon droppings should be used with caution, since they are elements of the spread of micro-organisms that cause various diseases. It is recommended that cleaning should be done by moistening the faeces with water, bleach or other disinfectant. It is also imperative that the use of masks and gloves, since some of the diseases are caused by the inhalation of microorganisms (V, 2004).

After sanitizing is recommended to disinfect the place, because the pigeons are carriers of ectoparasites such as lice, mites and ticks. The use of contraceptive substances is considered a measure of control with medium or long term. This substance inhibits the reproduction of birds.

In some airports are used falcons, which are the natural predators of pigeons away from the site, thus avoiding serious accidents with aircraft (NUNES and MIRANDA, 2010).


The pigeons to be widely adapted to the urban environment are considered animals belonging to the brazilian wildlife and as such are protected by federal law for protection of fauna. According to IBAMA, are specimens of wildlife all those belonging to native species, migratory and any others that have all or part of their life cycle occurring within the bounds of the Brazilian territory.

According to IBAMA normative instruction nº 109, 8/3/2006, the management measures may only be carried out by persons duly authorized and when the possibilities of control have already been exhausted, like eliminating access to shelters and power supplies. Otherwise, any attitude that configure physical damage to animal suffering or seizure may be considered punishable offence penalties provided for in law.

The law 9,605 of IBAMA’s 2/12/98 in his article 29 States that kill, Chase, Hunt, catch, using specimens of wildlife, native or migratory route, without due permission, license or authorization by the competent authority, may suffer penalty of imprisonment of six months to a year, and a fine.


On day 14 December 2010, students of 2nd year of the day shift did a survey by the school to analyze the sites where there was a higher incidence of pigeons, i.e. What are the places where these birds tend to roost and reproduce. This same survey was held on April 16 of the same month, by students of 2nd year of the afternoon shift.

On this day the students took photographic records and realized that the spaces where there is a greater presence of pigeons are in blocks of classrooms and block where works the cafeteria and snack area, as shown in Figure 1 and the halls of school (Figure 1 B). The intense presence of the birds after the break, because they feed on the remains of lunch that are exposed on the ground, played by the students themselves.

Pigeons on the roof and in the area of the canteen.
Figure 1: Pigeons on the roof and in the area of the canteen.
Pigeons in the corridors of the School
Figure 1 B: Pigeons in the corridors of the School.

The school underwent a reform that began in the year of 2007 and was completed in 2009, but the students realized that in some classrooms the pigeons were able to gain access to the lining, as were open (Figure 2). Similar situation established by Nunes and Miranda (2010) at the University of Cuiabá-UNIC.

Liner seal broken classroom.
Figure 2: sealing of the classroom ceiling broken.

The inspection that the students took in the block direction, observed that is small the presence of pigeons at this location. Realized just that some landed in air conditioning to obtain water. The same conclusions reached in the block of the computer labs and multidisciplinary. This block is relatively new, built in the year 2008, and access to spaces lining were sealed, thus preventing the entry of pigeons on the site.

The day January 06 2011, students noted the presence of a nest in a column next to one of the classrooms. Realized that this nest was built recently (Figure 3).

Pigeon nest in the column next to the classroom
Figure 3: pigeon nest in column next to the classroom.

Continuing, the students observed the intense accumulation of feces on the walls next to the classrooms and the cafeteria. Worrying factor, since the pigeon droppings are acidic and damage the paint and other materials. (Figure 4 A and B).

Pigeon droppings on the walls of classrooms and the cafeteria.
Figure 4 A and B: pigeon droppings on the walls of classrooms and the cafeteria.

According to reports of school staff, obtained through interviews, the pigeons are already present on the site for a long time, causing many complaints. According to an employee who works for over 15 years at the institution, there are many cases of students asking for early exit from school due to malaise as nausea and abdominal pain, which he believes is due to the contamination of foods eaten by the students in the area. We emphasize that these facts were not proven by medical examinations.

One of the employees, who works at the school two years ago reports:

“We who work in cleaning, we have a lot of work to clean up the messes that pigeons on the floor of the school. We clean the place with water, SOAP and bleach, but only once a week. The other days we just swept because you can’t wash the whole school which is very big and are few employees who work on cleaning “. (Employee interview report, 2010).

Through this report we can see that the school sanitation is not performed correctly, since according to Narayanan and Miranda, (2010), linings, cleaning gutters or any location to submit feces, remains of nest, eggs and feathers, one should always use gloves and mask or damp cloth over the nose and mouth. You can’t do dirt dry removal to avoid the inhalation of dust.

Another employee interviewed, one of the inspectors working at the school since its Foundation, reports that the proliferation of the pigeons happened some years after its inauguration. Account that I’ve noted many times students feeding the pigeons with remains of snacks, especially the girls. As claimed by the employee:

“I worry a lot about these pigeons because they do dirt on the entire school with the feces and I’ve read that have various diseases that are transmitted by pigeons. I’ve seen a lot of times students if soiling when touch dirty walls and also the pigeons that sit on the roofs of the aisles dirty students who pass through. (Report of inspection employee interview, 2010).

In the interview held with students of the school, were collected data with individuals of the 5th to 8th grades, with age ranging from 10 to 16 years. 30 questionnaires were applied with 8 questions. At first, all students responded that they thought it was important to study in a school clean.

In the second question, in which students were asked if they used to play remains of snacks at school, all responded that no, but it found the opposite, since it was observed that after the interval there was a large accumulation of leftover snacks scattered throughout the school space.

Figure 5 presents data concerning the knowledge of respondents about the meaning of the term Zoonoses. The majority of respondents (60%) claims he has the meaning the term in question. In a similar interview, held at Parque Estadual Alberto Löfgren in Sao Paulo Rodrigues (2009), comments that some of the respondents found it strange the pigeons are related to zoonoses.

students ' opinion on zoonoses
Figure 5: Opinion of the students

When asked if students are bothered with the presence of pigeons in school, about 78% responded yes, and 63% say that the nuisance caused by dirt refers to feces of these animals, 27% say worry about diseases related to these birds and 10% replied that if the bothersome noise you make in the linings of the rooms , disrupting the concentration in time for class. (Figure 6).

Opinion of respondents if they bother with the presence of pigeons.
Figure 6: Opinion of respondents if they bother with the presence of pigeons.

The next question held students was if they thought correct feeding pigeons in school. Many responded that Yes (45%). Some say they feel sorry for the pigeons, because they can die without food, it ends up attracting an increasing number of these birds to the school space. (Figure 7).

Opinion of respondents about the feeding of pigeons.
Figure 7: Opinion of respondents about the feeding of pigeons.

When asked about what should be done to prevent these birds remain at school, many students replied that should avoid playing leftover snacks on the ground, keeping the school clean (70%), others have said that the solution would be to put poison to kill the pigeons (12%). Of those surveyed, about 15% believe that destroying the shelters can avoid the permanence of the birds in school and 3% responded that an effective measure would be to put some product to keep the pigeons from school. (Figure 8).

Opinion of respondents regarding attitudes that must be taken to avoid the permanence of pigeons in school.
Figure 8: Opinion of respondents regarding attitudes that must be taken to avoid the permanence of pigeons in school.

Based on these data, it is possible to observe that for students, the best measure to prevent the pigeons remain in school would leave space clean so there is no availability of food.

Some students believe that putting poison in school, some pigeons would die and others walk away, but it’s important to remember that under the Ordinance of 29 3/24/94, IBAMA pigeon is classified as composing the brazilian fauna and therefore subject to “shelter” by federal law 9,605 of 1999, the law of environmental crimes. (NANI, 2003).

According to Nunes, (2003) without process properly the Elimination of sources of shelter, water and food to these birds, we won’t have success in its elimination of target areas for the control.

From the data obtained in the questionnaires and in bibliographies consulted, the lectures have been formulated by the students of 2nd year (Figure 9 A and B). These emphasize the importance of awareness of students and cleaning agents regarding the feeding of poultry care and diseases they can transmit. For cleaning agents, also made clear the importance of cleaning of dirty spots of pigeon droppings, using water, SOAP and bleach, as well as the use of gloves, boots and masks.

Student performing lecture for class
Figure 9 A and B: Student of 2nd year conducting lecture for the fifth grade.

For finalization of work to raise awareness, students went on walking around the school, in order to clarify the community about the care they should have with respect to pigeons, avoiding contact with these birds since they are vector of various types of diseases. Were handed leaflets to the residents with tips on how to prevent the proliferation of these animals, as well as the measures to keep them out of their homes. (Figure 10 A, B and C).

Students doing propaganda surrounding the school.
Figure 10 A, B and C: Students doing propaganda surrounding the school.

The educational action is of extreme importance, because the school community should be informed about the issue of domestic pigeons, aimed at changing habits. This awareness must be continuous, since it is a serious problem of public health.


The domestic pigeon is a bird apparently harmless and that conveys purity. Is loaded with symbols of peace, the Holy Spirit and Love. It’s not a natural animal of Brazil, but by Federal law from IBAMA, 9,605 of 2/12/98, are considered wildlife specimens, therefore protected of any attitude that set physical damage to the animal. These animals have adapted very well in many environments, due to factors that encourage the proliferation thereof, such as: food, shelter and water. Therefore, these birds are grouped in certain places, causing inconvenience to the local population, mainly transmission of diseases and deterioration of public assets.

Therefore, this article sought to address the problem of the presence of pigeons in the school environment, with the goal of awakening the interest in environmental education, in order to create a mentality that encourages students to a specific knowledge of the studied object that spans from the knowledge regarding the mechanisms that enable the presence of these birds in the location in question , bypassing the problems caused to health, as well as the ways of prevention and control of these animals.

Thus, the objectives proposed by this work achieved in part, as follows. First work the information about birds through lectures, so students interacted, took questions and at the end we pick up their level of understanding and exploitation of this activity, because we realized that the students have understood perfectly the mechanisms that collaborate to the permanence and proliferation of these birds, as well as diseases related to pigeons.

However, the research in question provided us verify the occurrence of possible diseases related to pigeons, there are only guesses, but nothing confirmed by medical tests.

In the analysis of the questionnaires we conclude that most students mind with the presence of pigeons in school, but you can tell which are the students themselves that propitiate the permanence of these birds in the environment, already spreading food scraps throughout the school. Another factor is observed regarding the precarious cleaning the environment, noting that only the area of the canteen is cleaned, though sporadically.

In view of the aforesaid, we develop the production and distribution of informative flyers at school and in the surrounding areas, so as to achieve one of the objectives of this study would be to propose solutions for the control and prevention and warn about the risks arising from contact with the birds. So we conclude that the present work contributed to awaken in students a sense of responsibility regarding attitudes that work together to minimize the problems caused by these birds.


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[1] Degree in biology from Universidade Federal do Pará. Public school teacher. Concluinte specialization course in environmental education and Use of water resources, fiber. Email: [email protected]

[2] Biologist. Master in biology. Doctor of medicine/Tropical Diseases. Researcher of the Graduate program of the Center for Tropical Medicine of the UFPA. Professor in undergraduate level and graduate studies and a researcher at the Federal University of Pará – UFPA. Email: [email protected]


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