It’s easy to simply say no but there are legal and moral arguments that need to be explored.
The situations are also different by country, for example, it is quite different in the UK and USA and one of the key factors is the gun laws.
Even if you strip away the moral argument for not shooting birds off your roof, the use of firearms so close to a residence is morally indefensible.
Responsible gun ownership means using your gun for hunting in lawfully designated places or using it for home and personal protection.
Under no circumstances does shooting birds off your roof count as a morally or legally acceptable reason.
Before examining the moral and legal arguments, why is there even a question of shooting pigeons off the roof?
Not everyone appreciates that the wild pigeon is quite a marvelous bird full of character. There are things a pigeon is good for but this bird carries a hefty stigma and sadly, many people think of them as vermin at worst and a nuisance at least.
When they gather together, they are notoriously noisy so if they congregate on your roof, especially near a chimney that leads to an open fire, there is a nuisance factor.
They also create a lot of mess.
Pigeon poop also carries diseases and can attract flies and rats to your property which may lead to other problems.
An overwhelming problem with pigeons on your roof may well frustrate you into wanting to shoot them but..
The Gun Laws in the UK
Guns are almost completely banned in the UK with the exception of shotguns, which is one of the reasons why the United Kingdom has the lowest rate of firearm-related killings and incidents in the world.
Between the years 2000 and 2020, the most common shootings were by unregistered antique guns.
The conservative government has set up a registration system for antique guns so that even they need to be registered post-September 2021.
So (hopefully) no more getting shot by Victorian weapons in the UK.
But What of Shotguns?
It is true that shotguns are legal in the UK, and you can apply for a firearms license, but you need to be certified in their use.
The gun itself needs to be registered, you need to pay a hefty application fee, and your application needs to be endorsed by three people of sound stature.
This means your application needs to be endorsed by somebody who would lose credibility and even risk being sued if the shotgun was subsequently lost, misused or stolen.
Possessing an unlicensed firearm in the UK comes with at least a 5-year mandatory prison sentence, losing a gun or having one stolen also comes with a prison sentence.
The old, “I lost it” argument doesn’t fly in Britain, and they will assume you sold your gun and drag you off to jail.
Since shooting birds off your roof with a shotgun is termed as misuse of the gun, you probably shouldn’t try it.
Not only will you have your license revoked, but the people who endorsed your gun ownership can be sued by any third parties or even the local government.
What about Pellet Guns and Air Rifles?
If you shoot birds off your roof with an air rifle, you open yourself up to a slew of charges that range from public nuisance and public endangerment to animal cruelty and the possession of an offensive weapon.
Though an air rifle is not considered offensive, you can be charged for using it if other people feel threatened or physically in danger by your use of it.
The Gun Laws in the USA
There are different rules in different states, but in general, if you want a gun, you can go to your local shop and get one. In this case, the unavailability of guns is not the issue.
Ergo, if people are easily able to get guns, are they easily able to shoot birds off their roof?
There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t risk shooting any sorts of birds on your property.
The first is that if you shoot somebody’s pigeon, such as a racing/homing pigeon, you can be arrested, jailed, and even sued for significant amounts of money.
Also, the sheer number of protected birds in the USA is astonishing and can be complex, which means there is a chance you could go to jail for shooting a protected bird.
For example, in 41 U.S states you can shoot Mourning doves, however in the remaining 9 states they are protected.
There are also stories like the one where the woman saw her rabbit being eaten by a bird of prey, so she took out her handgun and started blasting.
She missed the bird before it was able to fly away, but one of her bullets hit the neighbor’s fence who quickly had her arrested and who sued her for tens of thousands.
She narrowly avoided prison after dropping her argument that a dead rabbit was justification for her shooting spree, and her home insurance coughed up the money she needed to keep from losing her house.
Nevertheless, even if you shoot for and miss endangered/protected birds, you are still putting yourself and your house at risk when you shoot a gun on your property.
Shooting birds in your garden is judged on a situation-by-situation basis. For example, if your garden faces open fields and the noise and commotion aren’t too close to your neighbors, then you will only receive a slap on the wrists if somebody puts in a complaint.
On the other hand, if you live in an urban or suburban area where people may be harmed or people may be disturbed, then you can face anything from fines to jail time.
What About Birds on My Roof?
This opens up a different kettle of fish. Even if you lived in a desert alone with nobody around for miles, you are still putting your home insurance at risk if you knowingly fire your gun in and around your house.
More importantly, shooting a gun at, around or inside a residence is only lawful if you have a good reason, such as if you have intruders.
Shooting at birds on your roof is not a justifiable reason. It may seem harmless on its own, but the USA has a massive precedent of people shooting guns near and around houses and accidentally killing or maiming somebody.
As a result, there are very few judges and prosecutors who are willing to just “Let it go” and let you walk away with a warning.
Many are itching to put you in prison because they are still angry at the last dozen incidents where people were actually hurt.
Can People Get a Permit to Shoot Birds on Their Property?
The UK does not issue hunting licenses – you need a registered and insured shotgun as well as permission to shoot on the land if it is not public/common land.
There are laws concerning what wildlife you are allowed to shoot with some animals needing special licenses.
While pigeons are not a protected species like most songbirds, pigeon hunting in the UK is not as common a practice it once was when the birds were hunted for food.
The regulations about shooting birds on your property refer to landowners, not people who want to control a pigeon problem on their roof or in their back garden!
Pigeon (dove) hunting is far more widespread in the USA where it is considered a game sport.
Among the most common pigeon breeds in the US is the Eurasian collared dove.
As an invasive species, it is not protected and dove hunting is permissible year-round as long as you have a license.
Again, this is applicable to hunting as a practice, not as a remedy to a pest problem.
What Are the Alternatives?
There is a number of ways to deal with pigeons on your roof without resorting to breaking the law by attempting to shoot them.
Please read our article How to Keep Pigeons Off Your Roof.
If your problem is the roof, please read our article How to Keep Pigeons Out of Your Garden.
Don’t shoot pigeons on your roof no matter how much of a nuisance they are. Use alternative methods of deterrence and removal and ALWAYS abide by the gun laws of your country of residence.