Feeding a troublesome flock of pigeons roosting in a shopping precinct could see people facing fines or court action, a council has warned.
People caught feeding the birds in Daventry, Northamptonshire, could be dealt with under littering laws, according to the District Council, after it received complaints from shop owners.
About two dozen pigeons have been roosting on ledges above the shops around Bowen Square and Foundry Place, in some cases defecating on unsuspecting shoppers below and flying into nearby food stores, according to shopkeepers.
One store manager, who declined to be named, said: "It's a big problem. If you're underneath you're at risk of being splattered. Unfortunately, we get a couple of old ladies feeding them because they are God's creatures, but they're not starving - they're fat pigeons. They are dirty, filthy things, and they're vermin."
He contacted Daventry District Council and an officer was sent to investigate the problem.
The council's environmental improvement team has now issued a warning about feeding the birds, saying they are a health hazard.
It said in a statement: "Street pigeons could spread infections and feeding them will cause numbers to grow. Apart from looking unsightly, spores from dried pigeon droppings can spread diseases similar to pneumonia and influenza if they are inhaled as dust and carried on the wind."
Daniel Cribbin, the council's environment portfolio holder, said: "I would urge visitors to the town centre to dispose of their unwanted food responsibly, and not feed these birds because of the problems they cause.
"Feeding the pigeons is technically littering and, while we don't want to go down the road of fining people, if it persists and the birds continue to cause problems, we may have no other option then to look at fixed penalty notices, and ultimately prosecution.
"However, I hope it won't come to that and that shoppers will help us to keep the town centre clean by not feeding the pigeons."