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The Spanish city of Cádiz plans to exile 5,000 pigeons, but will they stay away?

Beset by complaints that the birds are driving away tourists from the terraces of cafes in the most visited part of the southern port city, officials have decided to capture the birds and move them 375 miles to a thinly populated countryside location in the eastern part of the country. There, they will find a new home in a dovecote near the town of Ribarroja del Turia.

The hope is that the highly adaptable pigeons will be happy to resettle there rather than being tempted to make the return flight.

The city settled on this plan after rejecting one that involved feeding the pigeons contraceptive pills. The city will use “the most respectful and sustainable method” to keep its pigeon population under control, Álvaro de la Fuente, the city official in charge of environmental policy, said in a statement.

The city came up with the plan after Horeca, a regional federation of hoteliers, complained two years ago that the pigeons were menacing tourists, particularly in the city’s emblematic cathedral square.

“When the pigeon gets hungry, it can get very forceful and often doesn’t even wait for the tourists to leave their table to go for their food,” said Antonio De María Ceballos, a restaurant owner and president of Horeca.

Horeca also argued that pigeon excrement presents a health risk for waiters and other employees who have to clean pigeon-occupied dining and drinking areas.

“Nobody here has anything against pigeons or other animals, but something must be done when they proliferate to the point of presenting a health risk,” said De María Ceballos.

“Of course,” he added, “we want to avoid losing some revenues from tourists, but this issue is really about whether we believe it is important to keep Cádiz’s image as a clean and healthy city.”

The city hopes to carry out the relocation this year. The 5,000 or so pigeons will have to be trapped and undergo health checks before they are transported and released.

De la Fuente, the city official, is also calling on residents to play their part and stop overfeeding pigeons. He argued that fighting pigeon overpopulation can also help avoid the spread of “other plagues like rodents.”

City Hall will distribute 3,000 leaflets about how to deal with pigeons, hoping to educate its residents about the problems caused when they overindulge the birds.