SINGAPORE: For at least a year, residents living along Lorong 4 Toa Payoh have had to contend with some unwelcome visitors - pigeons.
“They’re all over the place,” said Mr Simon Lam, describing “nightmare” scenes of pigeons roosting on the ledge of his 17th floor home, finding bird feathers on his floor, and having pigeon droppings over all his ledge and air conditioning unit.
Mr Lam has lived in the estate for more than 20 years, but has only started noticing a problem with the pigeons in the past year.
“We can’t leave our clothes out, because the pigeons will leave droppings all over it. (The cleaners) come and clean frequently, but it gets dirty again within a few days,” said another resident, who only wanted to be known as Ling.
All this, residents say, is due to the presence of persistent pigeon feeders in their estate.
“It’s clearly due to the food, because you can see (a large group) of birds in one area,” said Mr Lam.
“I always see leftover bread or rice on the grass, but I’m not sure whether they throw it out of the window or they go down and feed the pigeons,” said Ms Stella Ang, who also lives in the estate.
The familiar grey and green pigeons, or Rock Pigeons, are an invasive species in Singapore, the National Parks Board (NParks) told CNA.
“Their droppings dirty the environment, are unhygienic and cause disamenities like the soiling of clothes. Leftover food from pigeon feeding may attract other pests, like rats, that carry diseases and pose a risk to public health,” said NParks director How Choon Beng.
While NParks said that it identifies feeding hotspots to carry out engagement, enforcement and surveillance, and works with other relevant agencies including the Municipal Services Office and Town Council on feedback, residents said that such efforts have been largely ineffective in deterring persistent feeders.
Mr Lam told CNA that he had made multiple complaints to the National Environment Agency (NEA). Although the agency said that it was taking action and would issue the feeder a warning letter, “we didn’t see any improvement”, he said.
The authorities have also placed cameras and signs around the estate reminding residents not to feed the pigeons, said Ms Ang, adding that the pigeon problem had been around for the five years since she moved in.
“The problem is less when there is a camera, but once the camera is gone, then the problem comes back,” she said.
“For persistent feeding cases, these efforts aim to understand the motivation behind persistent feeding behaviour, and find alternative ways to counter their motivations,” said Mr How.
“This could come in the form of alternative activities such as community gardening.”
In response to further queries on measures taken when engagement with persistent feeders fail, Mr How said deterring feeding required a “combination of methods”.
Other than surveillance, engagement, working with other relevant agencies and enforcement, NParks also carries out public education and outreach with posters, standees, videos and table-top stickers.
“Through our engagement (with persistent feeders) so far, we found that some feeders can be persuaded to reduce feeding. We are working with others to understand their motivations to plan our overall approach and collaboration with other agencies to support this change for the long-term,” said Mr How.
In addition, the Municipal Services Office (MSO) announced during the Ministry of National Development’s Committee of Supply speech that it would roll out a High-Rise Littering and Pigeon Feeding programme nationwide.
Previously, the MSO conducted a 2018 pilot in Yio Chu Kang division, and noted that there was a “significant reduction” in the volume of feedback on pigeon feeding issues.
Currently, the nationwide programme is in various stages of implementation, “depending on the scale of severity” of the issues in different locations.
“With the High-Rise Littering and Pigeon Feeding programme, over time, residents can expect greater awareness among neighbours, which would provide additional deterrence to high-rise littering and pigeon feeding in the neighbour, and more effective investigation and case resolution to reduce offences.
“At the same time, the public can help to mitigate pigeon population growth and congregation issues by not feeding birds and keeping the environment clean,” said MSO.
However, for residents like Mr Lam, who continue to live with the pigeon problem, there is little else they feel they can do.
Although he has set up plastic netting to prevent pigeons from roosting on the ledge, ensure that windows are closed and food and water placed far from the windows, the pigeons continue to be a nuisance.
“I think I give up already,” Mr Lam told CNA, with a rueful shake of his head.