London pigeons

Evidence base

This section of the report details the different methodologies used in the creation of this seminal work.

Pigeon features

In November 2012, a team of volunteers audited the bodies of 249 pigeons and counted the number of complete feet, wings and eyes that they had. The results were aggregated and tabulations showing the mean number of body parts were produced.

Topology (external anatomy) of a pigeon

A pigeon was photographed and my years of experience were put to the test in order to recognise the bits of pigeons that are important, notatable or majestic.

The great pigeon count 2011

In order to establish the number of pigeons in London, the whole of the city was split up into a grid of areas of 10m by 10m. One hundred of these areas were then randomly sampled (for the geeks out there, each slot was stratified by geography and a random start was used and a one-in-n selection technique was used). For each of the 100 slots selected a random day of the week and time was selected for the survey. The number of pigeons found in the 100m2 grid at the allotted time were then counted. The average number of pigeons was then multiplied by the number of 100m2 that there are in London in order to get an estimate of the total population.

Laboratory tests

A sample of pigeons were taken on an all expense paid trip to a laboratory, where they were x-rayed, had MRI scans taken of their brains, were weighed and were asked to complete questionnaires about their personality. They were generally found to be co-operative and most found this to be a welcome distraction from their normal lives.

Pigeon activity across London

In the summer of 2007, 74 pigeons were tracked across London for a whole day in order to determine their movements. The pigeons were selected at random and were tracked for a day. There were a number of methodological difficulties which had to be overcome, the main issue being that pigeons do not like being followed and they have a tendency to run away and if they get spooked they can also fly away. In order to overcome this issue the volunteers dressed up as trees and stood very still, this was found to be suitably effective and also had the added benefit that some tourists thoughts that we were 'living statues' and took photos of us and left piles of coins at our feet. When pigeons took flight the volunteers had to use scooters to follow them.

Pigeon behaviour coding

This research was carried out at various times between 2005 and 2008. In advance of the research a codeframe of typical pigeon behaviours was drawn up. In total, 89 pigeons were selected across London for the experiment. The pigeons were observed for 24 hours and every minute the activity the pigeon was doing was recorded using a bar and gate tally method. At the end of the experiment the results were aggregated and tabulated.

Cost benefit analysis of welcoming pigeons into human society

Common sense and a solid grasp of mathematics and economics were used by the research team to determine that pigeons are wicked.


A crack team of futurologists was assembled and the pertinent issue of pigeons in the 21st century was discussed over the course of afternoon tea. Cucumber sandwiches fuelled the madness.

Food trade off

Pigeons were whisked off to a laboratory where there were no distractions. The pigeons were not fed for three hours ahead of the experiment in order to ensure that they had a hearty appetite. Pigeons were simultaneously offered two different foods at equidistant points (30cm from them), and their choice was recorded. The experiment was carried out multiple times with 28 different pigeons and the results were collated and complex statistical techniques were used to determine preference. The experiment took place in March 2013.