Some weeks ago i stumbled upon a note in the super market where someone searched for help for feeding the pigeons at Bahnhof Lichtenberg. I never really thought about the necessity to feed pigeons so curiously i read some articles and papers about pigeons in Berlin and it seems this is a really polarizing topic.

It is estimated that Berlin has about 10.000 feral pigeons. A new legal report1 was recently published which examines the legal status of city pigeons as found animals. This has some really interesting points in it. The report classifies city pigeons and their offspring as pets e.g. domestic animals, regardless of whether they have escaped or been released. Because even after numerous other generations, they do not lose their typical breeding behavior and do not mix genetically with the wild pigeon species that occur in Germany. Various scientific studies are cited in the report which show that the offspring of pigeons that have been bred do not “feral” either genetically or behaviorally over time. In addition, city pigeons are neither adapted to life in the wild, nor are they suitable for it because of their breeding which leads to poor health and a short life expectancy. These pigeons were bred to have a high brood activity. In contrast to their wild relatives, they have a higher number of eggs, even when there is a shortage of food so malnutrition can occur. If they are classified as pets then the municipalities are obligated to protect city pigeons in accordance with Art. 20a Grundgesetz and § 1 Tierschutzgesetz.

One way to protect them is through supervised dovecotes that are set up around town, where the pigeons are fed and the eggs are exchanged for dummies to reduce the population2 (The Senat is looking for suitable locations and potential land for pigeon houses and dovecotes). It seems controversial if this really works3 (but better then the other options). However, the biggest controversy seems to be the feeding of said pigeons. In contrast to other large cities, feeding pigeons is not forbidden in Berlin. I think we have to differentiate between people who feed pigeons for animal welfare reasons and use appropriate food and those who just want to get rid of their waste and dump stuff somewhere without reasoning. However, in the end though, there is obviously no clear right or wrong and all that remains are different points of view.4

Despite all that, pigeons are still an interesting study subject (and sometimes in a bizarre way), especially in regards for enviromental issues5. They could be like the canary in a mine and show us the enviromental impact we created for them and any other animal that calls the urban metropolis their home. Perhaps we should get less agitated with these animals and see the broader picture.

  1. Rechtsgutachten Stadttaubenschutz vom 29.10.2021 von Arleth C. und Hübel J. ↩︎

  2. Stellungnahme der Berliner Landestierschutzbeauftragten zu drängenden Tierschutzproblemen im Land Berlin – fünf unaufschiebbare tierschutzpolitische Schwerpunkte für den neuen Koalitionsvertrag, 1. November 2021 ↩︎

  3. “Es gibt einige Untersuchungen, die zeigen, dass auch Tauben von draußen kommen, sich in den Schlägen vollfressen und dann außerhalb brüten und die Populationen massiv zunehmen. Es ist keine Möglichkeit, die Population zu senken. Es ist aber sicher eine gute Möglichkeit, die Tauben in der Stadt anständig zu halten” - SWR2 Wissen ↩︎

  4. ↩︎

  5. Here and here are some interesting studies to that topic. ↩︎