Sick of sea gulls? Petrified of pigeons? Bothered by birds? Have you been stepping in excessive amounts of bird poo around your home or business?
This guide is packed full of everything you need to know about bird management in the UK. The guide includes why we sometimes have to control birds, how to deter birds, and how to get rid of them if you have an infestation.
Whether you’re thinking about doing some DIY bird control or you’re looking to enlist the help of a professional bird management company, this guide is for you.
We love British birds. Every wild bird and their eggs in the UK is rightfully protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
There are hundreds of species of birds in the UK. Having birds visit your garden is a wonderful treat, and we’re all happy to see them.
Unfortunately, a few species of birds come into direct conflict with humans when they take roost in or around our homes or businesses. These birds can cause real problems, including excessive nuisance and public health concerns.
Urban birds such as gulls and pigeons are great opportunists. Handed a ready food source and sheltered nesting site, these birds can grow rapidly and what initially attracted a few birds can soon become a thriving colony.
That’s when a professional can step in and help you control and manage pest birds.
The dangers: why control birds?
Pathogens and diseases
There are more than 110 pathogens reportedly carried by pigeons, and there is plenty of research to suggest other wild birds pass on diseases to humans.
Some of the more common diseases and pathogens that birds can spread:
|Air-borne diseases||Food-borne disease|
|Chlamydia psittaci (Ornithosis)||Salmonella spp.|
|Cryptococcus neoformans||Escherichia coli|
|Histoplasma capsulatum||Campylobacter jejuni|
|Allergenic particles (bird fancier’s lung)||Listeria monocytogenes|
In 2019, two patients died in a Glasgow hospital who had contracted a cryptococcal fungal infection which was subsequently linked to pigeon droppings.
Diseases can be transmitted from bird droppings and the birds themselves.
When dry, pigeon droppings can become airborne in small particles, which can lead to respiratory complaints.
You should always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when cleaning up bird droppings.
Food-borne bacteria can be spread to humans if you have poor food hygiene standards or come into direct contact with droppings (wash your hands straight away)!
Pigeons, gulls, house sparrows and starlings have the potential to carry food-borne diseases – it is therefore essential to keep them away from food manufacturers and distributors.
All bird droppings can be slippery and can cause a serious risk on pavements, particularly under roosting birds.
As funny as it might seem to see a gull steal someone’s chips at the seaside, gulls can pose a serious safety concern.
During the breeding season, gulls have been known to attack people unprovoked. Gulls have the potential to startle and even draw blood when they attack.
All birds have the potential to cause real problems on airfields. When birds are sucked into plane engines (bird strikes) – while rarely fatal – they can cause damage to aircraft and emergency landings.
Damage to property and brickwork
Bird droppings are acidic and can corrode and erode metals, stonework and brickwork.
Nesting materials birds use can block chimneys, flues and guttering, causing possible issues with carbon monoxide and damage to buildings as water overflows from blocked gutters.
Buildings covered in fouling looks unpleasant, can smell, and projects a poor image of a business, potentially ruining an organisation’s reputation. If customers spot evidence of a bird infestation on your premises, they may not want to do business with you.
A professional pest management company can help protect your building using proofing and bird deterrent measures.
Secondary insect infestations
Where birds go, so too go the parasites that live on them. Bird mites, ticks, fleas and beetles can all cause complicated secondary infestations.
If you have a current or past problem with birds, you may find you’ll suffer from a parasite infestation too.
These little critters can quickly multiply into thousands, leaving you feeling overwhelmed.
The relentless biting, itching, crawling sensation and lack of sleep are the physical symptoms that can propagate a whole host of secondary mental health issues.
Bird mites are parasitic arthropods feed on living organisms. It is the female mite that needs a blood meal to reproduce viable eggs. They are attracted to mammals by receptors for moisture, heat and CO2, and they often bite humans when their original food source has gone – like when the young birds leave the nest.
If you have a parasite issue because of a bird infestation, contact a professional pest management company as soon as possible.
Birds around businesses
If you have birds roosting in and around your business then you’ll want to seek professional help as soon as possible.
In the UK, allowing birds to infest a food business violates the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995, and could result in prosecution of the food company.
If you don’t address health and safety hazards, you could be putting your staff and customers at risk.
By investing in a professional bird management contract, you can save money in the long run by reducing damage to your property or stock.
The reputational damage caused by a bird infestation can be catastrophic. Bird droppings make any business appear unclean and imply a state to disrepair.
Would you choose to use a company covered in dangerous poo?
Find a professional to help stop bird infestations at your work and protect your business today.
Birds control licences and the law
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects all wild birds, their nests and eggs.
However, specific exemptions permit certain species to be controlled by particular methods for specific reasons.
This exemption is given in the way of a wildlife licence issued by Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage or Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
General licences are issued to allow certain actions to be carried out that would otherwise be illegal under the legislation, without the need for people to apply for a specific licence.
Individual licences are sometimes granted for specific situations not covered by a general license. These do need to be applied for.
The law only allows competent people such as professional pest controllers to deal with certain species.
You should always consult with a professional before you consider any form of bird control measures, as the list of birds that are considered pests can change regularly.
You can be prosecuted in the UK if you illegally interfere with a bird, it’s nests or eggs and you’re not doing under a wildlife licence.
Signs of a bird infestation
What do you need to look out for to spot a bird infestation? Some bird species like pigeons and gulls have adapted to live around us.
By their nature, birds will normally be at height keeping away from us.
Here are the seven signs that you have a bird problem:
- Spotting lots of birds settling on roofs or ledges
- Loud bird noises and cries from young chicks
- Finding nesting materials thrown about your home of business
- Damaged stock from pecking
- Bird fouling/droppings
- Blocked guttering and drainage systems with feathers and nest materials
- Secondary infestations from bird parasites (such as bird mites).
Types of birds that can be a pest
While most species of birds coexist with humans and rarely come into conflict with us, some species of birds in certain situations are considered pests.
It’s important to note that even species typically considered “pest birds” are protected by law.
Control of feral pigeon (Columba livia)
The feral pigeon is a widespread pest bird found in cities, towns and rural settings in the UK and around the world.
Pigeons can harbour a large variety of diseases and insects on their bodies. Its nests and fouling are also public health concerns.
Biology of a pigeon
Feral pigeons originally descended from domesticated rock doves. The population is supported by escaped racing pigeons.
Pigeons usually make their nests in bridges, buildings or any structures with easily accessible shelter.
Males and females help build nests out of grass, twigs, features and even litter such as plastics and wire. The nests can be quite large and quickly become thick with droppings.
Depending on breeding conditions, pigeons can have up to seven broods (birds produced at one hatching) in their breeding season between March and July.
Two eggs hatch in around 18 days. With access to enough food, the young pigeons will become independent adults in just 30 days.
More eggs can be hatched before the young have even left the nest, meaning a population can quickly grow.
Wild pigeons will live up to four years, relying on human food scraps and spillages, or taking from newly sown farmland.
Behaviour of a pigeon
You’ll often see pigeons in town centres feeding in huge flocks, ranging in size from 50 to 400-plus birds.
Pigeons have a social order, so the more dominant birds feed first and get the best breeding sites.
Management and control of pigeons
The best way to get rid of pigeons is to remove a food source.
Cover bins, clean up spillages and restrict access to food. Most importantly – don’t feed the pigeons!
Proofing with nets, spikes and mesh can stop pigeons perching and roosting in structures.
Scaring techniques rarely work with pigeons. Visual and audio scaring doesn’t tend to work very well or for very long. Pigeons adapt very quickly to new things.
Flying birds of prey regularly can be useful.
Lethal control can be an option when a bird has entered a food premises or overcome the proofing measures.
Culling pigeons to reduce flock sizes is rarely successful unless access to food is restricted, otherwise population numbers soon recover. This should only ever be done as a last resort and in accordance with a wildlife licence (general or individual) issued by an appropriate government department.
How to prevent and deter birds
All urban birds require is:
- A nesting/ roosting sites (eg balconies, window ledges and roof areas of surrounding buildings)
- A reliable food source.
Removing bird food sources or blocking off sites where they perch or roost is the best way to prevent birds causing a problem.
The number of birds attracted to an area will depend on what food is available.
All of these methods of proofing have their merits and some can offer a stronger and more lasting deterrent, but as with any method of control, they may become less effective over an extended period of time.
Flying a bird of prey can be a great way of deterring birds from a certain area.
For a heavy bird infestation, your professional contractor may have to employ methods of control such as egg and nest removal, shooting, trapping or flying of predatory birds.
Therefore if birds are being fed, more will be attracted to that area, so food sources must be kept to a minimum. Keep your bin lids closed and cover compost bins.
Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor or bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird
deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Bird Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.
Voted Best Canadian wholesaler for Bird Deterrent products ten years in a row.
Contact us at 1 877-4-NO-BIRD,(604) 585-9279 or visit our website at www.pigeonpatrol.ca
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