A message for the birds: Avoid this no-fly zone

October 2, 2008
 Don't eat the brown corn!

Don't eat the brown corn!


Pigeons are dropping from the Atascadero skies, bleeding from the eyes and dying after allegedly being drugged by pest control workers retained by owners of Atascadero’s Mission Oaks Shopping Center.

It might be a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film “The Birds,” but this time the birds are losing. Dozens of pigeons, apparently ill and flying erratically, have alarmed customers and employees of the shopping center who have witnessed the chemical carnage.

A reporter Saturday saw a group of about 20 pigeons attempting to navigate from the shopping center rooftop to a nearby Shell service station. One swooped into the back of the establishment and toppled onto the feather-littered parking lot. Nearby, a smaller pigeon shuddered and fell to the ground. With blood dripping from its eyes, the bird convulsed, twisted in pain, and died.

The stated objective, ironically, is humane treatment of the creatures.

“It is pretty darn creepy,” said Russ Benson, a cashier at the Shell Station post office. Benson said, “The pest control company is trying to give them [the birds] a bad trip they will associate with this area, and move on to somewhere else.”

Property owners Tom Murrell and John Wilson did not return requests for comment.

To ward off pigeons, the company placed corn laced with hallucinogens on the center’s roof as a “non-lethal” form of pest control, said a mall employee who asked to remain unnamed.

Heidi Quiggly from the state’s Department of Agriculture investigated the scene following a complaint from a cashier.

“It was very disturbing,” Quiggly said. “It sounds like Avitrol. We will do an investigation and find out exactly what is going on. It is a legal use, though it is unpleasant.”

Companies promote Avitrol as a non-lethal, flock-dispersing agent. Distributors claim birds, tormented by memories of the drug’s effects, will relate it to the area and move.

However, some pigeons ingest more than the recommended dosage, and as a consequence often suffer for hours of violent convulsions and hallucinations before succumbing.

Lawful in the United States, Avitrol has nevertheless been banned in cities like New York and San Francisco because of assertions that a slow and painful death by poison is inhumane. Also, the poison’s ready availability has led to the deaths of non-targeted species: protected songbirds ingest the pesticide and red-tail hawks and peregrine falcons unwittingly feed on pigeon corpses.



  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: newscruzer1 on 10/16/08
    Pigeons dropping!
    So! some don't like their shit, well ain't that just to damned bad, some would rather see them dropping,all feathered friends who feast as a flock in freedoms sky, to the hard cold ground to suffer and die.
    Mankind builds in the wilderness, and then expects natures creatures to adopt to the UN natural changes, and when they don't; well, we'll just poison the little bastards until they learn to never return to the area that was once theirs.
    And to think when I was once an innocent child, I wanted to be like a bird and take to the skies.Now that I'm older and a little wiser, I still have those childish dreams from time to time, but unlike when I was young and innocent I now would bomb the developments with a gigantic turd and drop it right smack in the center of their murdering eye.
    Friends of feathers flock together and help these defenseless wonders by boycotting Mission oaks Shopping center at the north end of Atascadero.
    By: Black_Copter_Pilot on 10/9/08
    I sent an e-mail to Keith Olberman at MSNBC and he replied back that pigeons were rats with wings that were no loss to society. Or did he?
    By: Countdown on 10/6/08
    I agree that it is much ado about nothing at this stage. But it would seem that common sense would have dictated other approaches before settling on poisoning them. In just 10 min. of searching on the web I was able to find many more humane alternatives in dealing with an excess of pigeons. Just the collateral damage aspect of poisoning should have ruled it from even being attempted.
    Preventing roosting by the use of different barriers seems to be the most widely used and effective strategies.
    By: paperboy on 10/6/08
    These people are begging for a lawsuit. Some dumb kid is going to eat that corn for sure and then…
    What's the big deal with pigeons? So they crap a lot. All birds do. Come to Morro Bay sometime where every square inch of the town has been crapped on by seagulls, and pelicans and yes, pigeons. And believe me, seagulls and pelicans are a lot worse than pigeons. Maybe that building needs some cats.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: ThomasPaine on 10/5/08
    Culling of pigeons is never effective as the culled pigeons are soon replaced with the same number or even more after a few weeks. It is not natural for pigeons to subsist by eating from humans. Curtailing the feeding of pigeons and making sure that they do not have access to human food goes a long way in preventing a pigeon problem.
    The most effective preventative technique is to use pigeon barriers to deter them from roosting. Once you pigeon proof an area from pigeons being able to roost, that pretty much eliminates the pigeon problem.
    Some areas have seen reduced pigeon population by using pigeon barriers along with birth control seed.
    This is not quantum mechanics and is a effective and humane way to deal with an abundance of pigeons.
    By: Vagabond on 10/4/08
    Hey Atackasparrow, If you eat a pigeon that's on Avitrol you'll get high!

    (that should solve the problem, you are all welcome)
    By: BringInTheTrashQuick on 10/4/08
    So, does anyone know if it works on ground squirrels?
    By: ThomasPaine on 10/4/08
    I agree Cindy, it doesn't make a lot of sense.
    By: Cindy on 10/4/08
    I think it would be a good idea for Dave Congalton to have a talk show on this. Not only do I think it's a cruel technique but it's reckless and effects other wild life. So they poison the birds at Mission Oaks to get them to go somewhere else? Like where, the gas station across the street? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense does it? Now I know why I had my car hit in 3 places with bird pooh when I got gas there last Wednesday.
    By: Booty_Juice on 10/4/08
    I hear tell that the roof nearly just collapsed from the weight of nearly half the entire town on it scrounging for them there corn kernels.
    By: Joe on 10/4/08
    Your effort to save a few rock doves has educated and inspired us to dope up deer and screw around with ground squirrels. This could be more fun than d-con in tuna!
    By: Truthbeknown on 10/4/08
    BringInTheTrashQuick on 10/3/08 said: "Does it work on ground squirrels?"

    How about deer?
    By: dapperz on 10/3/08
    I write: Today, around 6:00 pm,while working a service call in Atascadero, a pidgeon swooped to land in a low brach on a tree and almost flew into my head.I saw a flash in my periphery and had to duck to avoid it. This article explains alot.
    By: ThomasPaine on 10/3/08
    Nothing to be sorry about Newsom. I didn't have much time to write much. I lived in N.Y. and it was a major issue there. There are just a lot better ways to deal with pigeons than poisoning them IMO. It is definitely not a non lethal approach. I don't see how it is legal here since it impacts all birds and not just pigeons. It would be a good lawsuit for some bird lovers to bring I would think.
    By: Hangingonathread on 10/3/08
    That is just wrong! I'm crying, or tearing. I'm not really sure it's so hard to tell because the pain in my cheeks is worse than the sting of moisture in my eyes.
    By: Vagabond on 10/3/08
    Well, here ya go

    By: Newsome on 10/3/08
    Mr. Paine,

    Sorry. I thought you had some actual experience with pigeon control that you could share.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Hangingonathread on 10/3/08
    Wow, we can drug and kill pigeons but they shut down miles of central coast beaches every year so a bird evidently deemed more important can have a nice quite beach to lay on. Don't actions like this make the pigeons "Endangered"?

    Like you said TP "Unbelieveable"
    By: ThomasPaine on 10/3/08
    A quick search of Avitrol and of pigeon control can give you a much better overall look than by my cut n pasting.
    By: Newsome on 10/3/08

    Please elaborate.

    By: BringInTheTrashQuick on 10/3/08
    Sister George,
    If you have any pull with the editors, could you suggest that the times of postings be listed along with the date, as it was on the old website?
    Bless you.
    By: ThomasPaine on 10/3/08
    There are much more effective and humane ways to control Pigeons. This is barbaric, indiscriminate and uncalled for.
    By: BringInTheTrashQuick on 10/3/08
    Does it work on ground squirrels?
    By: kenfield on 10/3/08
    I'm surprised Atascaderans didn't just pull together a posse with shotguns to spray the whole area with gunfire and then dump the ex-pigeons into the Salinas River or serve them as "quail" at the Carlton Hotel — or Atascadero State Hospital.

    ["allegidly" -> "allegedly", "wrethed" -> "writhed", "spell checker" -> "baffling space-age technology"]
    By: whoisjohngalt on 10/3/08
    Creative! They need to do the same thing in Pismo Beach by the pier.
    By: Booty_Juice on 10/3/08
    What will they think of next oop nort?
    By: Cindy on 10/2/08
    I think this is something that should be looked into by the AHS. Giving birds a "bad trip" is a bit reminisce of the 60's to say the least. It sounds like a night mare and I don't think it's humane at all also it's not possible to control the dose a bird will ingest.
    Beware of teenagers selling hallucinogenic corn folks. That will be next.
    By: Newsome on 10/2/08
    For a time, I looked after a restaurant that had a pigeon problem. There is no easy solution.

    By: George on 10/2/08
    New meaning to the popular admonition
    By: ThomasPaine on 10/2/08

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down

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