Millennium Post

Spain's tryst with pigeons!

It is always good to share a meal with the locals on vacation, except when the locals steal your food, smash your plate, defecate on the table and then fly away. That is the situation in the southwestern Spanish port town of Cádiz, where pigeons have been terrorising tourists to such an extent that local authorities are now taking steps to banish thousands of birds. "We are not exaggerating, the pigeons are not scared of humans any more," said Carlos Fernández, in Cádiz's beautiful Cathedral Square. Adding, "They throw themselves at the food even when there are clients seating ready to eat it. They push glasses, plates and jars on to the floor and it's a real mess." And when tourists give up on Cádiz's sunny terraces and move inside, there is still no escape from the birds. Even inside the restaurant, they come in, they know where the food is and they are not scared. The population of pigeons is now so high that customers pestered by the pigeons are being scarred by their experiences. It's not a pretty picture either. The square's winged residents "decorate" building facades and restaurant tables and chairs. After a pigeon census by the city council decreed that the bird population of 9,000 was three times as many as Cádiz could sustain, authorities decided to take steps. The plan is to catch and relocate 5,000 pigeons over a period of a year instead of culling them. They will then be transported at least 170 miles away, aimed to discourage them from returning. Alvaro de la Fuente, of the council's environmental department, says the city wants "a respectful and sustainable solution to reduce the impact of the birds on cities like Cádiz". He adds that by relocating rather than exterminating the birds, Cádiz hopes to "establish a logical equilibrium where the cohabitation between humans and birds doesn't damage either". The local government is confident this project will work because, although pigeons have strong homing instincts, once you take them beyond 170 miles from their home they tend to stay and settle in their new surroundings. Some 3,000 leaflets instructing people to stop feeding the birds are also being distributed to make the change a little bit easier. Cádiz's hoteliers, who say they've lost 20 per cent of their business because of the pigeons and warned of health risks to their employees, welcome the relocation plan but want it implemented ASAP. "It's been years since we brought up the problem and started talking with the city hall," says Antonio, president of Cádiz hoteliers association, Horeca. Cádiz is not the only city with bird problems. In November, Rome's authorities began using falcons to drive thousands of starlings out of the ancient city.

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