Birth Control is for the Birds: Pigeons, Geese, and Peafowl Too!
Putting pigeons and geese on "the pill" might be old news for some of you. Nonetheless, a simple survey from amongst most of my non-veterinary friends and family demonstrated otherwise. They had no clue that offering medicated feed to the avian species we consider "pests" is a legal method for taming their rampant fecundity.
Here’s some recent news, direct from one manufacturer of these products, Innolytics:
[As of August 25th,] OvoControl P has been reclassified as an "unrestricted" or "general-use" pesticide by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CADPR). The increasingly popular flock management tool, birth control for pigeons, is now "general-use" in 49 of 50 states.
"The original 'restricted-use' designation limited the use of OvoControl P to licensed applicators only," remarked Erick Wolf, CEO of Innolytics. "With the new classification, no special license or permit is required to purchase or use the pigeon control product in California."
Or in 48 other states. Which means a gaggle or flock near you is likely to be under the wing of some agency, organization, or individual who is working hard to keep their local populations under control. Anyone can buy the stuff. Anyone can use it, vigilante-style if they wish — for pigeons and ducks, anyway. For Canada geese, a Federal permit is required.
While non-target contraceptive effects are possible, the design of the baiting system together with the requirements for delivery of the bait makes the likelihood of non-target effects remote.
As long as it’s safe, why not? After all, if you’ve got a burgeoning population of birds that are being artificially supported by the humans who feed them, doesn’t it seem like a great idea to offer them "the pill" in their daily pellets?
Makes sense to me. In fact, it makes so much sense that when a client asked me whether these medicated feeds might be effective for the free-roaming peafowl flock she cares for, I jumped at the chance to research the concept. After all, peacock control is something I can really get behind.
Here’s some background on the peafowl scene in my area:
Believe it or not, you cannot keep a peaceable chicken hen in Miami, Florida. You can, however, keep a noisy peacock, which does not belong in this country, much less in a cage. And if you dare to harm the merest feather on a peacock’s person, you’re actually in violation of both City of Miami and Miami-Dade County ordinances.
Bizarre, right? This non-native species — one many would be in their rights to consider a nuisance (they can be mighty loud and are wont to poop willy-nilly) — is singled out for protection for reasons even this animal lover cannot fathom. Sure, they’re pretty, but why else?
Back to my client — who asked that I not reveal her name for fear of neighborly retribution or worse ... legal repercussions. Despite the fact that she’s the one who cares for these birds, she understands that people can be a bit funny about peacocks and that they might not see it the way she does. That is, birth control as a means to population stability, so that babies aren’t hit by motorists, parasitism doesn’t run rampant, and she, their de facto caretaker, can effectively manage their veterinary care (generally for the babies, who manage to get into all kinds of trouble).
Laudable, right? It sounds like the perfect antidote to the peacock problem for at least this Miami resident. Which is why I will NOT be outing her to the authorities, regardless of its legality. After all, there’s that doctor-client privilege thing to consider. ;-)
I was more than happy to undertake a smidgen of research for her, which consisted of a simple trio of e-mails to...
1) ...the Director of Miami-Dade Animal Services, Dr. Sara Pizano, for help with the legal issue.
2) ...OvoControl’s helpline for info on species specificity.
3) ...Dr. Don Harris, legendary bird vet, for an independent take on OvoControl’s party line.
The OvoControl people got back to me quickly (on Sunday, even). Here’s what they had to say:
...If you intentionally feed peafowl OvoControl it will clearly have a contraceptive effect.
Based on their behavior and feeding habits, ducks, geese and pigeons are relatively easy to condition to the OvoControl baiting program — peafowl can be a bit more challenging. A number of customers with peafowl in both the U.S. and Canada have reported control of egg hatchability with OvoControl. There have been no reports of adverse reactions.
Please note that OvoControl is not registered for peafowl and any such use would be considered "off-label" by EPA and FLDACS.
(Note that "off label" most likely means I would have to seek approval from the regulatory powers-that-be.)
I’m waiting to hear more from the doctors on the legal and ethical ramifications of peacock contraception. I will be keeping you posted.
Dr. Patty Khuly