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Postcard from... Vienna


Woody Allen coined the phrase “rats with wings” for Columba livia, the Latin name for the detested feral pigeon.

In Vienna, the city council has declared war on the rapidly growing population of feral pigeons  and declared that anyone caught feeding them will be fined €36 (£29) on the spot.

An anti-pigeon protest movement has even borrowed Allen’s idea and produced a placard displaying the body of a feral pigeon with a rat’s head.

“Whoever feeds pigeons, feeds rats,” insists city councillor Ulrike Sima.

The new law is the city’s response to a deluge of complaints from residents angry about the excessive amount of pigeons’ droppings soiling their environment.

Councillor Sima points out that bread is not only bad for pigeons but that it also attracts rats. In addition, Vienna has set up special feral pigeon dovecotes in which the birds are fed and encouraged to breed. But when the eggs arrive, ornithologists intervene and swap them for fake eggs made out of plaster. The aim is to cut the birth rate.

Vienna looks enviously at Berlin where the feral pigeon population has dropped by some 60 per cent in the past few years. Naturalists say this may be due to Berlin’s increasing numbers of goshawks, which kill and eat pigeons.