Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Living at Peace with Pigeons (pigeon lofts)


Living at Peace with Pigeons

How pigeon lofts are good news for birds – and also for cities
By Marleen Drijgers.

(Editor’s Note: In her previous post, Marleen Drijgers, the founder of the European Council for Humane and Effective Pigeon Control, described how many cities across Europe have stopped treating pigeons as pests and started to treat them as the beautiful birds they are. Now she explains how to create a good living space for them.)

In the late 1990s, the city of Rotterdam, Germany, laid out a plan to kill all its pigeons. I had already had success in persuading several town, in Holland, where I live, that mass killings do not reduce the population in the long term and are not only cruel but a waste of taxpayer money. So I was invited to address the council in Rotterdam. The majority of the council agreed with me and they vetoed the plan.

At the same time, I met a German artist, Stefan Gross, who was living and working in Rotterdam. Stefan told me that in two cities in Germany, pigeons were not being killed anymore. Instead, they were living in pigeon lofts donated by well-wishers. After our meeting, Stefan proceeded to design a modern loft for the pigeons of Rotterdam, and local bird associations began organizing with city councils, volunteers and private donors to have them installed and maintained.

When pigeons get a beautiful loft where they can eat and sleep, they also get a makeover in peoples’ minds. Because the lofts are good-looking, modern and practical, people stop thinking of their inhabitants as dirty, ugly, flying vermin. Good food results in good-looking, healthy birds of which a city can be proud. And the lofts themselves are artistic pieces of architecture.

The pigeon lofts

The lofts are made of aluminum, so they are not heavy. They are also insulated, so they’re cool in summer and warm in winter. And they’re attached to the rooftop of a building in a way that ensures they are storm-proof.

Not every city pigeon needs a loft. Lofts are for places where the birds gather in flocks, creating a nuisance. A pigeon loft is a humane solution that reduces complaints that droppings and nests are polluting buildings and apartment blocks.

The loft must be built close to places where the pigeons are already sleeping and nesting. A loft in a park does not solve the problem. Pigeons like sitting high on rooftops, so rooftops are good places for lofts.

Caring for the pigeons

To prevent a pigeon loft from becoming overcrowded, volunteers remove eggs and replace them with plastic eggs. Only when female pigeons brood very often do they leave a single egg that will hatch. In a loft where 150 pigeons sleep and brood, more than 300 eggs and more than 600 pounds of pigeon droppings will be removed each year. (Pigeon eggs are edible by humans, so I like to think the pigeons are paying the “rent” for their house in eggs.) We also provide them with a good mixture of cereals and seeds and fresh water daily.

Caring for the pigeons obviously takes some work. As I mentioned in my previous post, I became interested in pigeons through my neighbor, who used to put out food for them on her roof. I began to do the same thing, putting out a big bowl of drinking water and a small tub for bathing. It was lovely to see the pigeons splashing in the water and also grooming and looking after each other. Once a week, I had to clean my rooftop of pigeon dung, but I didn’t mind – the pleasure exceeded the nuisance.

In some European cities where pigeon lofts are taking hold, the people who look after the pigeons and clean the lofts are paid for their work. In others, this work is done by volunteers who love pigeons. It just takes a little organization to make sure the routine is maintained. And the small investment of paying someone to do this work is far less than the cost of pigeon extermination.

The new lifestyle we provide for the pigeons also increases their lifespan. Without a loft, a pigeon’s life expectancy is about 3 years. Pigeons living in a loft live longer because of the good food and the shelter from rain, snow and wind.

Also, for racing pigeons who get lost during the races, the lofts are a true sanctuary where they can live for the rest of their lives. (Most pigeon keepers are not interested in having them back, because there are no longer any prizes to be won with them.)

Here in the Netherlands, there are now pigeon lofts in five cities, and plans are in motion for three more cities. In Germany, there are lofts in almost 40 cities and there are also some in Belgium, France, Italy and the U.K. I’ve also had some inquiries from Athens in Greece.

More and more cities are seeing that this humane method is also effective, and more and more cities are discovering that installing lofts is far preferable to the senseless and cruel killing.

I hope that cities in the U.S. choose for pigeon lofts as well. They are peaceful birds, so we should let them live in peace.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Marleen Drijgers is the founder of the European Working Group for Effective Pigeon Control. You can contact her directly there for more information about creating a pigeon loft, or introduce her work to your local bird protection group.

There are no organized city programs in the United States yet to create lofts for city pigeons. For more information about helping pigeons in the United States, visit the New York Bird Club.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Avitrol Corp Discontinues Sale of Avitrol

Several sources including the Humane Society of the United States as well as the Avitrol Corporation have reported the shutdown of the company that manufactures Avitrol. See the link for details.

A poison, Avitrol was used to reduce the number of birds at industrial, agricultural and urban sites. Use of the product was limited to licensed pest applicators and usually resulted in dead or dying birds. Introduced more than 25 years ago, Avitrol has long been opposed by animal welfare and conservation groups.

See letter from Avitrol Corp:
http://ovocontrol.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Avitrol-Letter.pdf

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Canned Pigeon Hunt Exposed on CNN Headline NEWS show

15,000 Domestic Birds to be Shot for Target Practice
Thank you CNN Headline News for covering this story:
"Issues: With Jane Velez-Mitchell"

Activists travel to Pennsylvania almost every week to attend the pigeon shoots and document the event. They point out that Pennsylvania’s Animal Cruelty Law, Title 18, section 5511, prohibits a person from wantonly or cruelly ill-treating or abusing any animal. The law also prohibits neglect, abandonment, and deprivation of food, drink, shelter, or veterinary care. Pigeon shoots violate every one of these prohibitions. All of the information including videos can be downloaded below or at PigeonShoots.com.

Pigeon shoots are competitions wherein hundreds to thousands of live birds are shot at to win prizes. A typical 3-day shoot contest can kill and injure up to 15,000 birds. The next canned pigeon shoot event is scheduled for October 3, 2010.

The pigeons are captured and collected for weeks ahead of time, then released from trap boxes only yards away from the so-called “sportsmen”. The birds are generally dazed and suffering from dehydration or starvation as they are sprung out of the boxes.

Rather than mercifully being given a quick death, 70% of the birds are injured when shot and either left to suffer slow deaths or collected and killed by pigeon shoot “trapper boys” or “wringers”, traditionally children, who break their necks, step on them, tear off wings, suffocate them, or cut off their heads with garden shears, among other abuses.

Pigeon shoots are nothing more than a vile excuse for entertainment for the dull-witted or psychopathic. Illegal in other countries and in all but a couple of American states, most people realize the despicable nature of these bird-killing contests.

Activists vow to take the war against Pennsylvania’s remaining live pigeon shoots directly to the people, aided by a $1 million gift from former television personality Bob Barker.

Contact: Steve Hindi – President/Founder
Email: info@sharkonline.org
Phone: 630-557-0176
Visit: www.FreeAnimalVideo.org/breaking-news to get all the video.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Fascinating Life and Times of the Humble Pigeon

If you´re a city dweller, chances are you see them everyday - strolling down the sidewalk with their friends, having lunch at a local cafe, or just hanging out in the park. But for as much as we share with our urban lifestyles, few animals are as misunderstood or as maligned as the humble pigeon. They are such a part of life around the world that it´s not so strange to hear otherwise sensible animal-lovers refer to pigeons as ¨rats with wings,¨ offering nary a word on their unique history or simple beauty. Perhaps the time is nigh to better understand our feathered city-dwelling neighbors who´ve been pigeonholed too long.

Of the 309 different species of pigeon, Rock Pigeons are the ones most acquainted with urban life - but despite the advantage they take of human infrastructure, there was a time that even they had to rough it. In fact, the species has been coolly strutting around for about 20 million years, long before the advent of bread crumbs or bronze statue perches. In the wild, the animals´ original habitat was on the rocky cliff sides of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Although nowadays many people aren´t big fans of the birds, one reason they´re so numerous today is that once pigeons were highly regarded. Between 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, the birds were first captured and raised by humans - primarily for food, but also to carry messages over long distances. The animals´ feathers, too, were prized for their attractive feathers and unique coloring. Selective breeding in centuries past is one reason that pigeon color patterns are so varied today.

Early on, humans took note of pigeons´ uncanny sense of finding their way home and employed them with carrier duties, giving rise to Messenger Pigeons. Even Julius Caesar took advantage of these clever birds, using pigeons to send war reports from the front line. The birds were used in a similar capacity for centuries, before radio and telephone communication made them pretty much obsolete. But some pigeons enlisted to aid in war efforts turned out to be quite brave as well.

One popular story from World War I surrounds a pigeon named Cher Ami, stationed with American troop fighting on the front-line in France. When soldiers from New York´s 77th Division found themselves under siege from friendly-fire, they tried sending a note via Messenger Pigeon to inform the other troops that they weren´t the enemy, but the bird was shot down. Another bird was sent, but it too was killed. In a desperate third attempt, the soldiers tied a note to Cher Ami: "Our artillery is dropping a barrage on us. For heaven's sake, stop it!" The bird was shot too, several times, but managed to keep flying until the message was delivered. For this bravery, Cher honors back home. His body can be seen at the Smithsonian Institute.

Despite occasionally being honored for their service in war-time, pigeons as a symbol are have quite a different reputation under their more flattering pseudonym - the dove.

But even the humble pigeon, as a city-dweller, doesn´t get credit where credit may be due, in part because of certain misconceptions that the birds spread disease to humans. Although they can carry parasites and viruses, like West Nile, pigeons are thought not to be transmitters of it. Still, many urban areas have gone to great lengths to dampen their presence about town.

London´s Trafalgar Square was once famed for its vibrant pigeon population, considered a tourist attraction in and of itself. In 2003, however, the city´s mayor banned the sale of pigeon food, hoping the birds would move on. Activist groups, like Save the Trafalgar Square Pigeons, sought to keep the birds around and continued to feed them anyways.

Other cities have taken a more drastic approach to combating pigeons, even resorting to the use of poisons, though the practice isn´t preferred since it can pose a threat to other animals too. Selectively removing fertilized eggs from specially installed coops and even birth control are amongst the other creative, slightly more humane solutions to too many pigeons in cities across the world.

It´s only been a few centuries since the birds were first brought to the Americas, but now the Rock Pigeon can be found in nearly every city in the world with a population numbering in the tens of millions. Some other pigeon species, however, haven´t fared quite as well. Eleven species of pigeon have gone extinct - like the famous over hunted Dodo bird - while several others are considered threatened.

City pigeons, though clearly outside of their natural habitat (just as we are, I suppose), are animals of unique talent a beauty - even if they may eat our refuse and occasionally sully our memorialized forebearers. Even pigeon loving groups have been established, like Cornell University´s Project Pigeon Watch, aiming to redefine how the world looks at the bird.

Who knows, with an open mind and little understanding, perhaps one day the pigeon will be thought of with a bit more respect, and even adoration. You´ve got to admit, they are pretty darn coo.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pigeon Racing is a Cruel Blood Sport

August 4, 2010

Pigeon racing is a cruel blood sport
By Times Wire

Thank you for exposing the pigeon racing industry for what it is - a cruel and possibly illegal enterprise operating under the guise of an innocent hobby.

In response to Zig Vanderwall's denial of culling (killing) racing pigeons by wringing their necks, and his statement that "I don't know where (PETA) got that," I could offer many sources, but here's just one: A commonly used Gulfcoast Homing Pigeon Club sponsor's reference book states that "in most cases, birds not up to standards are culled." It describes the killing as a "necessary evil" to maintain the quality of the racing pigeons, and notes that the most common method of doing this is by "wringing the neck."

This aspect aside, many birds are killed when they have no choice but to race the hundreds of miles back to their lofts and mates through storms or are attacked by predators en route. If they must land due to injury or exhaustion, they can starve to death because they were born in captivity and do not know how to fend for themselves.

The county commissioners are in a unique position to ensure that the restrictions on keeping pigeons are kept and enforced, and to limit the number of birds exposed to this violent blood sport.

Jenny Lou Browning
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Panama City

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pigeon Population Decline with OvoControl P

Pigeon population problems pooping out?
June 9, 2008

In today's This Week Ahead column, we catch up on what's happening in Hollywood--not with celebrities but with pigeons:

How have the efforts to shrink the pigeon population in Hollywood using birth control gone since announcing it last July?

Since August, some of the area's estimated 5,000 pigeons have been eating pill-shaped kibble known as OvoControl P from feeders on rooftops, making Hollywood the first area to try the contraceptive since it was given state approval in late July.

About 300 pigeons flock every morning at daybreak to eat up the contraceptive kibble, which contains nicarbazin, an ingredient that stops an egg from developing. OvoControl P has been registered with the state Department of Pesticide Regulation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and is approved by PETA and the Humane Society.

Laura Dodson, president of the Argyle Civic Assn., a neighborhood group leading the effort called Citizen Pigeon, said that they raised enough money from local businesses and residents -- over $50,000 -- to install five rooftop automatic feeders. They’ve also installed cameras to monitor the birds eating online.

After four months, the 438 pigeon regulars in one spot dropped to just below 40. Some through attrition, but pigeons are "just having less babies now," Dodson said.

The original date to reduce the pigeon population by 50% was 2012, but Dodson said that pest control and wildlife officials think it could happen within the next two years.

The pigeons are disliked in the area, currently under millions of dollars in renovation efforts, because of the messy droppings.

Italy, though, is taking a different approach on cracking down on the birds.

--Francisco Vara-Orta

Monday, July 5, 2010

Passenger Pigeons Deserved Better Fate

The last passenger pigeon passed on in 1914. He lived in a zoo in Cincinnati.

That’s pretty pathetic, considering that, at one time, their numbers were estimated to be in the billions. This particular breed of squab was fairly large, at 17 inches length. And, apparently, tasty. When the Europeans arrived, the passenger pigeons’ days were numbered. They were slaughtered by the thousands. For a time men actually made a living traveling to pigeon breeding grounds and killing them for market. By the mid-1800s they were thinning out. By 1914 they were gone.

The eastern Indians — ours included — were fond of these passenger pigeons as well. Sometimes their winter hunting camps were aimed as much as putting them near the pigeons’ nesting grounds as any other game. They used the pigeons for meat and even as a kind of butter.

Explorer John Lawson wrote about his first experiences with passenger pigeons:

“(They) were so numerous in these Parts, that you might see many Millions in a Flock; they sometimes split off the Limbs of stout Oaks, and other Trees, upon which they roost o’ Nights. You may find several Indian Towns… that have more than 100 Gallons of Pigeons Oil, or Fat; they using it with Pulse, or Bread, as we do Butter… The Indians take a Light, and go among them in the Night, and bring away some thousands, killing them with long Poles, as they roost in the Trees. At this time of the Year, the Flocks, as they pass by, in great measure, obstruct the Light of the day.”

You’ve got to admit, that’s a lot of pigeons. The ground beneath the trees, where they roosted, was covered by a half-foot layer of dung. Think of parking your newly-waxed car in the shade and discovering that the next morning!

And, Lawson avowed, this was only a small portion of their population: in 1701, when he was exploring the westernmost part of the Carolinas, he saw “infinite Numbers of these Fowl…(that) would fly by us in such vast Flocks, that they would be near a Quarter of an Hour, before they were all pass’d by; and as soon as that Flock was gone, another would come; and so successively one after another, for great part of the Morning.”

It is sad that spectacles like this can only be experienced through history — and that we are the reason this is so.


Sun Journal article
Bill Hand can be contacted at newbernhistory@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Humane Society of the US Supports Pigeon Birth Control

As the pigeon population steadily is declining on its own most likely due to extreme difficulties pigeons are facing surviving on our planet, the HSUS is in full support of the birth control drug for pigeons OvoControl P. The following article is in their newsletter:

‘Birth Control’ for Pigeons Now Available Without a Prescription
EPA reclassifies OvoControl P® as general-use

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States praised the recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the "restricted-use" classification for OvoControl P, a promising birth control agent for use in pigeons.

"We are extremely pleased with the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to ease restrictions on OvoControl P," said John Hadidian, director of Urban Wildlife Programs for The HSUS. "General-use approval will make OvoControl P more readily available to communities and businesses that want to control pigeon populations humanely and effectively."

OvoControl P is an edible pellet treated with nicarbazin, a chemical that effectively reduces egg hatching rates in birds when used in combination with exclusion and other humane measures. It was originally registered by the EPA in 2008 as a "restricted-use" product, a designation that limited the sale and use of the product to licensed applicators only.

The new classification means that it will no longer be necessary to have a special license to purchase and use OvoControl P. OvoControl is also registered for use in Canada geese and Muscovy ducks under the more stringent label restrictions.

The HSUS' Wild Neighbors program promotes nonlethal solutions to conflicts between people and wildlife. For many years, pigeons have been subject to lethal control through poisoning, trapping, shooting or other inhumane methods. The HSUS supports the use of birth control technologies as a way to humanely control animal populations and decrease the likelihood of conflicts.

OvoControl is available through distributors or directly from the manufacturer, Innolytics, LLC. Visit ovocontrol.com for more details. Click here for more information from The HSUS on solving problems with pigeons.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mike Tyson Pigeon Racing Show Ruffles PETA's Feathers

Mike Tyson Pigeon Racing Show Ruffles PETA's Feathers

NEW YORK — An animal welfare group wants New York City prosecutors to investigate Mike Tyson's reality television show about pigeon racing.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the Brooklyn-based show is cruel to animals and its races could involve illegal gambling.

The show will follow Tyson as he competes in pigeon races. The former world heavyweight champion has raised pigeons all his life but is a racing rookie.

The show airs next year on Animal Planet. A spokeswoman says there have never been plans for wagering on the races. She says the pigeons will be "cherished and respected by their owners," including Tyson.

PETA sent a letter dated March 18 to the Brooklyn district attorney's office requesting an investigation.

District attorney spokesman Jonah Bruno says the office is looking into the allegations.

additional link (added 3/29/10)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pigeons Beat Humans at Solving Puzzle

Birds adept and solving 'Monty Hall problem' named after game show host
By Charles Q. Choi

Pigeons might do better than humans at game shows, at least on "Let's Make A Deal."

These new findings — involving the pigeons superior ability to solve a perplexing statistical problem — might in turn shed light on why humans are bad at solving certain kinds of problems, scientists added.

The so-called Monty Hall problem is a well-known puzzle named after the original host of the game show "Let's Make A Deal," who presented contestants with three doors, one of which held a prize, the other two only goats. The prize and the goats were placed randomly behind the doors beforehand, and stayed where they were throughout. After the contestant made a guess, Monty Hall would always open one of the remaining doors that he knew did not contain the prize. The player was then always given the option of staying with their initial guess or switching to the other unopened door.

Most people opted to stay with their initial guess, despite the fact that switching actually doubled the chances of winning.

To see why the apparently illogical choice of switching is actually better, one must understand that before the host opened one of the three doors, the contestant did not know the location of the prize, and thus when he or she chose a door, the contestant had a 1-in-3 chance of being right. That does not change even after the host opened a door. If the probability of the first door the contestant chose remained the same, and there were only two doors left, that meant the remaining unopened door must have had a 2-in-3 chance of being right — that is, it had twice the chance of holding the prize.

The fact that people do badly at this problem is true across cultures, including Brazil, China, Sweden and the United States. Indeed, when the Monty Hall problem appeared in the "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade magazine along with an explanation of the solution, the columnist received some 10,000 letters, 92 percent of which disagreed with her solution. This failing holds true even of many statisticians and mathematicians who should know better, including Paul Erdos, perhaps the most prolific mathematician in history.

Pigeons know better

To shed light on why humans often fall short of the best strategy with this kind of problem, scientists investigated pigeons, which often perform quite impressively on tasks requiring them to estimate relative probabilities, in some cases eclipsing human performance. Other animals do not always share the same biases as people, and therefore might help provide explanations for our behavior.

Scientists tested six pigeons with an apparatus with three keys. The keys lit up white to show a prize was available. After the birds pecked a key, one of the keys the bird did not choose deactivated, showing it was a wrong choice, and the other two lit up green. The pigeons were rewarded with bird feed if they made the right choice.

In the experiments, the birds quickly reached the best strategy for the Monty Hall problem — going from switching roughly 36 percent of the time on day one to some 96 percent of the time on day 30.

On the other hand, 12 undergraduate student volunteers failed to adopt the best strategy with a similar apparatus, even after 200 trials of practice each.

Why people don't get it
One possible reason people are worse than pigeons at the Monty Hall problem might be due to how people learn.

Past research with university students found they almost universally believed that staying and switching were equally likely to win, while younger students believed this less. Only in the youngest group tested — a bunch of 8th graders — did a significant although small fraction of students figure out switching was the best strategy. It may be that education leads people to acquire ways of thinking that, while efficient, can interfere with certain kinds of performance.

"During 'education,' which I would take to encompass not just formal education, but also one's general life experience, we acquire heuristics — rules of thumb that, either consciously or unconsciously, allow us to respond to a complex world quickly," said researcher Walter Herbranson, a comparative psychologist at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. "But while these heuristics are fast and generally accurate, they're not correct 100 percent of the time."

The scientists propose the curious difference between pigeon and human behavior might be rooted in the difference between classical and empirical probability. In classical probability, one tries to figure out every possible outcome and make predictions without collecting data. In empirical probability, one makes predictions after tracking outcomes over time.

Pigeons likely use empirical probability to solve the Monty Hall problem and appear to do so quite successfully.

"Different species often find very different solutions to the same problems," Herbranson said. "We humans have ways of tackling probability-based problems that generally work pretty well for us, the Monty Hall dilemma being one notable exception. Pigeons apparently have a different approach, one that just happens to be better suited to the Monty Hall dilemma."

Empirical probability is a slower, less elegant, brute-force method that can be tricked by the kind of random fluctuations seen in real data, Herbranson said, but it doesn't employ any mental rules of thumb that can lead to traps such as the Monty Hall problem. In a similar way, the visual systems we depend on to quickly make sense of the world around us can lead to our susceptibility to visual illusions, he added.

Indeed, the aforementioned mathematician Paul Erdos demonstrated the power of empirical probability nicely as well. According to his biography, Erdos refused to accept the explanations of colleagues for the correct solution, and was eventually convinced only after he was shown a simple computer simulation than ran the problem hundreds of times. In other words, "after Erdos approached the problem like a pigeon, he was able to embrace the right answer," Herbranson said.

Herbranson and his colleague Julia Schroeder detailed their findings in the February issue of the Journal of Comparative Psychology.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feed Mayor Bloomberg, Breed A Rat

Mayor Bloomberg, Breed A Rat
The criminal known as Mayor Bloomberg thinks he can sidestep the people and buy himself a third term. He hates pigeons because they would tell on him in a New York Minute. The logic that Scumberg presents that by feeding pigeons will only bring on rats is flawed. Rats don't need pigeon food to find sustenance. Don't feed the mayor and his one man political machine. It's time for a real change in New York City. It's time to end his reign of arrogance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bob Barker Donates $1 Million to Save PA Pigeons

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Bob Barker donates $1 million to save PA pigeons
A TV icon is taking a stand for the pigeons of Pennsylvania.

Bob Barker, the former game show host and one of the nation's most generous animal philanthropists, has donated $1 million to stop pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania and says he will be joining protestors outside a Bensalem gun club where shoots are being held regularly.

Barker said the donation will go to SHARK, an Illinois-based animal activist organization dedicated to putting a stop to these shoots.

The organization plans weekly demonstrations at the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bucks County which two years ago began holding pigeon shoots despite a cease and desist order issued by Bensalem Township. In 2002 the township said the shoots violated local firearms laws and constituted animal cruelty. The club recently filed suit against activists and neighbors for harassment.

Barker also said he will support legislation being considered in both the state House and Senate that would ban the use of live pigeons for targets and make organizing or operating the shoots a crime. Animal rights activists in Pennsylvania have been fighting to win passage of anti-pigeon shoot legislation for two decades.

Pennsylvania is the only state where live pigeon shoots are openly practiced, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The contests - held at gun clubs, most of them in Berks County - involve launching pigeons from spring-loaded boxes where shooters fire on them at close range. Many wounded birds are scooped up - often by children - their necks broken and the carcases disposed of. But other injured birds end up outside of the clubs only to suffer a slow death from their wounds.

“The very characteristics of a live pigeon shoot are such that the event cannot be held without causing extensive animal suffering,” said Barker. “Live bird shoots are held under the guise of ‘sport’ target practice But they offer neither sport nor hunting.”

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that about 22,000 live birds are used as targets every year in Pennsylvania.