Like a growing spiderweb, long lengths of fine wire encircle many of the public buildings in Goulburn to ward off pigeons. At Goulburn Railway Station three strands of the wire run the length of one of the platform buildings and under verandahs, while at the post office and Goulburn Performing Arts Centre similar wiring forces the birds to roost elsewhere.
But the problem is not going away. Auburn Street’s footpaths continue collecting piles of unsightly droppings. The birds keep dropping their filthy calling cards from on top of and inside of awnings, air-conditioning units, lights and signs.
The Department of Defence and councils in Sydney and Wollondilly engage a professional bird control company to keep the pigeon menace under control, as does St Saviour’s Cathedral in Goulburn. About 25 years ago the then Goulburn City Council engaged the same company, Australian Pest Bird Management, for a successful eradication program.
The company’s director Jim Woods recalled tracking several hundred pigeons in Auburn Street before putting out large traps on awnings.
“We trapped the birds, took them away in carrying cases and euthanised them,” he said. “We have very large traps that hold 20 to 35 birds, unlike a lot of pest control traps that hold about a dozen, maximum.”
But large-scale trapping needs to be done annually to be effective, he said.
“We have had meetings with the council since then, but it never seems to go anywhere,” Mr Woods said. “Budgets seem to get in the way and the rest of it.”
In the bird-control industry for 40 years, Mr Woods said baiting was also effective. He said pigeons were feral animals and baits (with a licence and a permit) were designed specifically to kill pigeons.
Pamela Shaw, a businesswoman in Auburn Street (Shaw’s Antiques) and warden of St Saviour’s Cathedral remembers being one of many business owners who registered to participate. She recalled the pigeon menace was most pronounced in Montague and Auburn Streets.
Now treasurer of St Saviour’s Cathedral, Mrs Shaw said the parish was still working with Australian Pest Bird Management to control the pigeons at the cathedral. “The pigeons are a menace as they block gutters and downpipes with feathers and droppings. They also carry salmonella and lice,” she said.
Southern Tablelands Pest Control’s Tony Batten gets at least two calls a week from businesses and residents wanting to get rid of pigeons in Goulburn but turns down the work.
“You fix the problem in one area and they are back roosting on the next ledge. You can keep going and still not stop them and the owner of the building wants to know why you haven’t fixed the problem,” he said.
He said pigeons were roosting on any sort of ledge in the main street. “The problem is they breed and breed, they’re like rats with wings,” he said.
He has been controlling pests in Goulburn for 30 years and says the fine-wire structures on the post office and performing arts centre are a Band-Aid solution.
He believes Goulburn Mulwaree Council should have a regular trapping program to keep the numbers in check. “If something isn’t done, imagine what the problem will be like in five years’ time,” Mr Batten said.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council adopted a pigeon, Indian myna and pest bird policy in 2019, but without contributions from owners of buildings, few of the recommendations happened.
The policy calls for a collaborative approach on netting, bird spikes, destroying nests, trapping, signs warning against feeding pigeons and engaging professional shooters.
Submissions to the policy said it required leadership from the council to work. One submission said the council was washing its hands of the problem.
The Goulburn Field Naturalists Society agreed, and called for a professional, lethal control program. Leaving it to property owners was not good enough. “For any degree of success it will be essential for council to arrange and coordinate agreed actions,” the submission said.
The Field Naturalists recommended Australian Pest Management be engaged to address the issue.
A spokeswoman for the council said a revised pigeon, Indian myna and pest bird policy is on public exhibition and is on the council’s website.