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The Courthouse's Most Nefarious Visitors

The Courthouse's Most Nefarious Visitors

by Rachel Ehnert, Communications Specialist for Weld County

The Weld County Courthouse has had its share of nefarious visitors over the past century. Perhaps the most nefarious, in the eyes of some, however, were not criminals, or even people, for that matter! For some, namely Weld County’s Buildings and Grounds team, the most destructive, infamous villains to ever plague the courthouse were pigeons. That’s right, pigeons.

As comical as it sounds, pigeons have played a huge role in the Weld County Courthouse’s history. The building, with its flat rooflines and multiple outcroppings, makes the perfect home for flocks of pigeons—they have plenty of room to roost and no pesky predators to be wary of so far up in the heart of Greeley. For the pigeons, life at the courthouse couldn’t be better—so from the time the building opened its doors in 1917 to today, the pigeons have been fighting for squatting rights.

And they were most unwelcome. Pigeons are not only dirty hosts for disease but also are the producers of acidic “pigeon guano” which can erode soft stone and cause lasting damage to buildings. Further, their nests attract “decay organisms” like fungi, which can cause unpleasant odors and further contribute to the deterioration of a structure.

Further, these birds proved a menacing addition to the already intimidating structure—these birds, freed from their natural predator (barn owls, which usually avoid downtown areas) grew huge. Some Greeley residents even reported that they saw dead cats hauled up to the top of the courthouse by pigeons, when in fact, what they saw were pigeons that were as big as cats perched atop the building.

Present day Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who was also a commissioner in the 1990s, remembers the pigeons with a laugh: “They were noisy, messy, destructive—in short, those pigeons were the worst tenants we ever had. We got creative and stuck mothballs outside of courthouse windows in the hopes of deterring the birds—it worked, for a while!”

However, a building as spectacular as the Weld County Courthouse deserved better pigeon protection than mothballs. In the late 1990s, pigeon spikes were put in place on all potential roosting surfaces, and the building has had only a few brave and feathery squatters ever since.