He's Up on the Roost

Given their preferred nicknames of "sky rats" and "rats with wings," it would seem that people don't hold common pigeons in high regard. Still, few know the level of humans' deep animosity toward the birds better than pigeon-control expert Robert Crespin. "Honestly," he says, shaking his head in his Redondo Beach office, "some people want me to kill them."

Nine years ago, Crespin launched Pigeon Control Professionals, a small company that helps businesses and homeowners fend off the unwanted birds. While running a window-cleaning business, Crespin had seen firsthand the damage wrought by pigeon droppings. He was determined to make a difference. Even then, he admits to having a fondness for pigeons. "They're monogamous," he says, "which is kind of cute."

At first, Crespin winged it. "We went to a toy shop and picked up a bunch of rubber snakes, then we put them up in doors and windows," he recalls. "The pigeons were scared off--for the first two minutes." He considers these early days, then turns serious. "We've come a long way."

Crespin now employs 20 workers to wash windows and battle problem pigeons. He takes on roughly 100 pigeon-control jobs a year, charging anywhere from $50 for small residential tasks to $13,000 for big corporate infestations. While Los Angeles probably can't boast as high an annoying pigeon population as New York's, he says, he's found plenty of work: He installed screens to clear pigeons from a bell tower at St. Andrews Church in Pasadena ("It was hell"), donned a Hazmat-style protective suit to shovel mounds of pigeon droppings from an open room on the Queen Mary ("Usually when it gets that bad, we'll walk away from it") and cleared thousands of pigeons roosting in a small Torrance garage ("gross, gross, gross").

Crespin will rig reflective balloons or apply sticky repellent to keep pigeons at bay, but he refuses to kill the birds or use any chemicals that could harm them. "We want to be kind," he says. "We like the birds." In fact, Crespin has deployed nearly 30 bird feeders outside his Torrance home. Sky rats are welcome to drop by any time, he says, though he fills his feeders with birdseed, not appetizing trash.

He knows his live-and-let-live pigeon policy scores points with animal lovers, but he also admits to enjoying another benefit. Crespin leans back in his chair, sighs and flashes a devilish smile: "We want the birds to grow up and disturb others."

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