Everybody enjoys the wild birds that visit UK gardens throughout the year and feeding them brings a lot of pleasure, especially to those who have limited mobility or are housebound. There are however those nuisance bird species which can become a blot on the landscape and cause much distress.
Feral pigeons divide public opinion. Some people think they are a valid member of the wild bird population, while others would like to eradicate them completely from our parks and cities. They are descended from the rock dove but have adapted to live alongside us in an urban environment. Towns and cities provide artificial cliff-like nesting and roosting spots.This can provide a major headache to the owners of the buildings and monuments they choose to frequent.
The droppings produced by these birds are unsightly enough, but they can also cause pavements, walkways and fire escapes to become slippery. The droppings are acidic, and over time cause untold damage to stonework (particularly limestone) and metalwork. Gutters and downpipes become blocked by their excretions, food and nesting materials. On top of this, pigeons carry disease such as salmonella and psittacosis. Add to the list the variety of mites, lice and other parasites that their nests and dead bodies contain and the humble pigeon takes on a pest of enormous proportions.
To counteract the problem, large buildings can be pigeon-proofed with stretched netting which can be effective until it starts to sag or tear. Other birds can also find themselves caught up in it. Anti-perch bird spikes are a very effective way of preventing pigeons roosting on window ledges, conservatories, signs and rooftops. The plastic or steel spikes look formidable, but they are not designed to spear the birds, merely to stop them landing. Such spikes can also be fitted to guttering with the use of special clips.
The main message being sent out by local authorities is not to feed the pigeons. And stop littering. Walking the dog a relatively short distance to the local park, it is shocking how much food waste is discarded by people too lazy to bin it or take it home. The abundant supply of food is ensuring the fertility for pigeons to breed all year round which was not the case with their rock doves ancestors. It would be better for the pigeons to return to their natural diet rather than relying on scraps, bread and other offerings.
The number of gulls breeding on rooftops is increasing by 30% a year. These gulls can be extremely noisy but are known to swoop and attack humans for food and to protect their young. They are particularly aggressive in July and August, just as all those unsuspecting holiday makers descend on our coastal areas.
Gulls will pick at roofing materials to build their nests and the nests themselves commonly block gutters, vents and chimneys. They can present a health risk as they pick up and transmit E Coli and other diseases through their droppings. There are five gull species in the UK but only the Lesser and Great Black Backed Gull and the Herring Gull are regarded as pests.
The anti-perch spikes suggested for controlling pigeons will be effective for gulls too. The bird spider has the same effect, its bouncing arms interfering with the bird’s ability to land or take off
The starling is a noisy and gregarious bird and spends most of its life in flocks. Their airborne antics are quite a joy to watch but the sheer numbers that can accumulate in trees and other roosting spots can make it quite a pest. It is a grub eater and will turn a lawn over looking for favourable ones as well as decimating cuttings and new plants that are a gardener’s pride and joy. Their numbers are actually declining in the wild and because of this they are a protected species. If you have a problem with them they will have to be moved on rather than wiped out by somene with a gun. The best way to remove starlings is with the use of a sonic repeller such as the bird x-peller pro. This works by recording the birds’ own distress call and then creating a ‘danger zone’ that the birds will avoid.