Feeding Trafalgar Square's numerous pigeons becomes illegal from Monday. People caught feeding the birds face possible prosecution and a 50 fine, under a new by-law. But campaigners have said a legal loophole will let them carry on giving food to the birds. Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said pigeon droppings have caused up to Â£140,000 damage to Nelson's Column and the square. He wants visitors to the central London landmark to stay and enjoy a "cleaner, healthier environment", rather than just taking a few photographs and leaving.
The square has recently reopened after a Â£25m facelift which saw the pedestrianisation of the five-lane road which had divided it from the National Gallery. "The introduction of a cafeteria on the square has given it a more pleasant environment," said Mr Livingstone. "None of the improvements would have worked if the square was still infested with thousands of pigeons."
Licensed feed sellers have been banned, seeds are now sucked up by vacuum devices and Harris hawks and megaphones are used to scare pigeons off. But while numbers have reduced from up to 4,000 at lunchtimes to about 200, some people still turn up to scatter seeds.
Infested is an good choice of word. I've been to Trafalgar Square when the birds where everywhere, they were bold about getting seed and would land on your arm, hand or head. There were too many of them. A book I read a while ago ("After the Fire" by John Lockley, excellent novel, written by the same doctor that wrote "A Practical workbook for the depressed Christian," one of the few helpful books on the subject) had a character end up in London after most of the country was wiped out by a plague. The character ends up in Trafalgar Square and is struck by the silence and total lack of pigeons, all gone because no-one was left to feed them.