Prague plans to install its first urban pigeon loft – and steal their eggs

Winning design by Karolína Munková and Paulína Závacká

Just like other large cities around the world, Prague has been continuously struggling with an overpopulation of pigeons. Councillors in the Žižkov district have now decided to take a novel approach to the problem. Instead of killing the birds, they want to install the country’s first urban pigeon loft.

According to ornithologists, there are approximately 80,000 feral pigeons living in Prague, especially in neighbourhoods with older, and larger blocks of houses, such as Karlín, Žižkov and Vinohrady, as well as the historic Old Town.

The birds’ excrement is causing extensive damage to historic buildings and monuments, and cleaning it is pretty costly. But pigeons also present a health risk, as they can carry all sorts of pathogens that are transmitted to people.

Currently, Prague city authorities are regulating excess pigeons by trapping and killing the birds. But councillors in Žižkov (Prague 3) have decided to take a more humane approach to the problem.

Taking inspiration from the neighbouring Germany, they decided to build an urban pigeon loft. In order to keep them off the balconies and roofs, they want to encourage the birds to take up residence in the dovecote.

Photo: Radio Prague International

As soon as the pigeons start to breed, their eggs will be removed and substituted with dummy eggs, explains Kateřina Brabencová from the organisation Municipal Pigeon House:

“The eggs are artificial and they are roughly the same size as real eggs. They’re a bit stronger, so there’s no danger of the pigeons breaking them when they handle the eggs, for instance when they take turns sitting on them.”

Typically, a hen pigeon will continue to sit on the artificial eggs for about 20 to 25 days before realising that the eggs will not hatch and abandoning them.

But if her eggs are removed without being substituted by the dummy eggs, the hen bird will re-lay immediately – and continue to re-lay each time her eggs are removed.

According to Ms Brabecnová, removing the eggs doesn’t cause the birds any harm:

“If the eggs don’t hatch, it doesn’t traumatize the birds in any way. There’s no reason for them to move away and find another nesting place. And they have got a secure place, food and water, so they won’t migrate anywhere.”

The winning design for the pigeon loft by Karolína Munková and Paulína Závacká was selected in a public competition announced by the Prague City Gallery within a project called ‘Art for the City’.

The unusual white-painted wooden structure will be located in a park near the city’s Vítkov Hill and will accommodate around 200 pigeons. Its construction, estimated at about half a million crowns, is set to start this autumn.

If the projects turns out to be successful, Prague city councillors are planning to install more such pigeon lofts around the city in the future.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Jaroslav Hroch
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