To the west of Jewell Station looks like a scene from the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”; there are hundreds of feral pigeons along with a dozen seagulls. Coburg’s intersection of Victoria Street and Waterfield Road presents a similar scene; some parts of the Victoria Street mall are completely unusable due to pigeon droppings. And now there are pigeon paste-ups in the Victoria Street Mall renaming the suburb: “Coo-burg”. These paste-ups rats of the sky make street art references to Banksy’s rats and Blek le Rat.

Coburg does not have a lot of street art or graffiti compared to Brunswick, just the occasional paste-up or sticker run and the odd tag. These paste-ups raise the question: are pigeons more serious urban problem than graffiti? In a word: yes. Pigeons make more than just a mess they make an unhygienic mess; pigeon dropping can spread diseases to humans. There are expenses incurred by local councils and traders to prevent pigeons roosting and to clean up pigeon droppings: anti-roosting devices and netting ruin the look of architecture. For more on the problem of pigeons in an urban environment see Pigeon Pest Control For Beginners.

There is legislation to prevent feeding pigeons but it goes on – some people dump bread by the loaf to feed them. But unlike graffiti the people who feed pigeons are not regarded as socially disruptive and the laws regarding feeding pigeons are not enforced nor are they a focus of public concern. Maybe Coo-burg needs a pigeon trap/roost like the one at Batman Park, Melbourne or other forms of population control. Expecting politicians to prioritise their response to problems based on evidence rather than prejudices would be too much.

Jail bird at the former Pentridge prison


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

8 responses to “Coo-burg

  • mdonnellan63

    You should only feed them if you’re prepared to eat them.

  • Helen

    They are horrible, diseased creatures, much more of a problem than graffiti will ever be! Councillors get your priorities right!

  • curtis

    i live in coburg and frequent the mall often – especially for the pigeons! the other day there were also two ducks. i find people’s pigeon prejudice quite sad, and anger at pigeons (including letting children kick them) raises important questions about urban space and the way humans interact with animals.the coo-burg art i interpreted as being an intervention into this interaction. it always brightens my day when i see people being kind to pigeons and other urban animals. i don’t think appreciation of graffiti and art has to be squared off against animals.

    • Mark Holsworth

      In Melbourne humans share the city with both native and introduced species; pigeons are an introduced species and their population growth threatens other species. There are plenty of native birds in Coburg, along with a possums and flying foxes, to enjoy.

      It is not a question of appreciation but of Council priorities for graffiti removal has to be prioritized relative to other urban problems, like pigeons, rats and illegal dumping of rubbish.

  • curtis

    i’m pretty sure that pigeons (or more specifically the rock doves in coburg) didn’t introduce themselves. the most damage by any ”introduced species” in australia, in terms of effects on animals and environment, would clearly be humans. there are also many beautiful native pigeons which live around the coburg area. the pigeons in coburg aren’t affecting any native animals, the only animals they’re annoying are humans, who introduced these pigeons, so it seems a bit rich to complain righteously.

    in terms of council priorities, how about pick on parking meters or something that isn’t alive. or as you suggested illegal dumping of rubbish by people.

  • betsy birdheart

    If you honestly believe it is truthful and appropriate to categorise pigeons alongside illegally dumped rubbish, you have bigger issues than the vague threat of disease from feathered friends. I get where you’re coming from. It’s a lot easier to harm pigeons when you choose to ignore that as species we have historically exploited for pigeons for capital, war, and to rescue our own selves… Pigeons have been trained to spot the orange life jackets of people lost at sea. The pigeons are carried by helicopter over the ocean. When they spot a life jacket, they peck a keyboard, which sets off a light. Then the helicopter moves closer and more slowly over the waves until the humans are able to see the life jacket. (!.html). My point is, your historical short-sightedness warrants some revision.
    Should you ever wish to investigate the possibility of having a loving relationship with another sentient creatures (you may find that people may like you more), here are some stories or human-pigeon connection.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Not a vague threat of disease, a real threat, my mother-in-law was infected with mites from feral pigeons.
      Feral pigeons, unlike the domestic pigeons that you are mention, are a serious urban problem that costs local councils, business a great deal of money to deal with. (I have no complaints about domestic pigeons or domestic rats.) What I am trying to point out to people is that although feral pigeons are a serious problem it doesn’t make the front pages of newspapers unlike graffiti. I think that people need to get a sense of proportion and to understand what real problems there are in urban environment.

  • Street Art meet Graffiti in Coburg « Black Mark

    […] piece, leaving messages along the bike trail, Shark’s paste-ups of birds and Forever’s great Cooo-burg pigeon paste-up, the odd stencil here and […]

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: