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Bird Control

The vast majority of bird species never come into conflict with human interests and are undisputedly a positive aspect of the world's ecology. Some, however, due to behavioural characteristics can be a real nuisance. Pigeons leave their caustic bird droppings on window ledges and walkways causing an unsightly mess and a dangerous, slippery surface. Seagulls can be a problem with their noise, seagull nests and seagull droppings. Magpies are noisy and often aggressive, particularly at nesting time.

Success in bird management requires a sympathetic approach, incorporating an understanding of the birds' biology and behaviour.

Birds are protected by law and it is essential that those people carrying out bird management, whether pest professional or layman, understand the legal implications of what they do. these laws are many and complex. If you are ever in any doubt as to the legality of any action you are about to undertake GET EXPERT ADVICE FIRST. If you don't, you could bring yourself or your organization into disrepute and face prosecution. That said, there are undeniably good reasons for having to control bird populations:

1. Human disease transmission - there are plenty of reasons for arguing that birds and their droppings can be a hazard to public health. Pigeons are known to be affected by more than 110 pathogens (8 virus, 55 fungi, 41 bacteria, 6 protozoa). However, reports of actual cases of human diseases transmitted from birds are relatively rare.

Air-borne disease agents that can be inhaled and the resulting symptoms include

  • Chlamydia psittaci (ornithosis) - bacteria excreted in the faeces and nasal and eye secretions, thus contaminating the feathers, faeces and nesting materials. Symptoms include chills, fever, sweating, severe weakness, headache, blurred vision, pneumonia, possibly death. Bird management professionals have suffered acutely from this disease in the UK with problems continuing for years afterwards. It is not always possible to link exposure to infected birds, but according to U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, feral pigeons were the source of infection in 19% of 236 cases of ornithosis
  • Cryptococcus neoformans - yeast found in accumulated bird droppings, gaining significance in the UK. Infection appears to be a bout of flu but in susceptible individuals, pneumonia and meningitis can develop.
  • Allergenic particles (bird fancier's lung) - an allergic condition occurring particularly among bird keepers. The acute form can lead to intense flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, muscle ache, cough, breathlessness. The acute phase can be followed by the chronic phase, characterised by pulmonary fibrosis.

Food-borne disease is mainly caused by bacteria on the food. Resulting illnesses will generally take the form of infections or food poisoning. The incidence of these illnesses being directly transmitted by birds is thought to be low, but disease organisms that are known to be carried by birds include

  • Salmonella spp. - abdominal pain,diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, headache.
  • Escherichia coli variant 0157 - severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea, kidney failure, possible death
  • Campylobacter jejuni - headache, nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain
  • Listeria monocytogenes - meningitis, septicaemia
  • Vibrio cholerae - diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain

Pigeons have been shown to be carrying the same strains of bacteria affecting local people, gulls feeding at contaminated sites such as sewage treatment works can pass bacteria out with their droppings on grazing pastures and water reservoirs, house sparrows have been shown to carry salmonella so if they infest a warehouse or supermarket, there is potential to spread disease. In the UK, allowing birds to infest a food business violates the Food Safety Regulations 1995 and could result in prosecution.

Insect and mite infestation. Urban birds have a number of blood-feeding parasites living in their nests. These include: martin bugs, bird mites, pigeon fleas. The feathers, droppings and dead birds in nesting areas can be host to a variety of other insects including yellow mealworm beetles, lesser mealworm beetles, fur beetles, larder beetles, plaster beetles, hairy fungus beetles, biscuit beetles, common housefly, lesser housefly, white shouldered house moth, brown house moth. Many of these insects will move onto infest fabrics, stored food etc. Whn birds die inside buildings they can become a source of carrion-eaters such as bluebottles, greenbottles and flesh flies.

2. Safety

  • Bird droppings are a serious slip hazard, for example on pavements below bridges where pigeons are roosting.
  • Gulls are becoming a serious problem in coastal towns where they attack people for food. They can be aggressive at nesting time, attacking nearby humans and pets.
  • Jackdaws and gulls nest on top of chimneys, blocking them and causing a fire hazard or the accumulation of noxious gases.

3. Property damage.

  • Bird droppings produce ammonia, which can oxidize and react with chalk to form calcium nitrate, causing the decay of stone and making it porous. The calcium nitrate is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture from the air. This keeps the stone wet, accelerating the decay. The acidic nature of bird droppings encourages the growth of acidophilic fungi that can accelerate the physical breakdown of stone.
  • Metals can also be damaged by bird droppings and their breakdown components. These metals are transformed into salts that are soluble in water and can damage protective coatings. Droppings can also damage paintwork on cars if not cleaned off immediately.
  • Nesting materials, feathers, droppings and food debris can block gutters and downspouts. This can lead to flooding and water damage to property. Corvids and gulls damage window seals, roofing materials and rooftop machinery.
  • In rural environments, the large quantity of starling guano and the weight of birds on branches can kill the trees. In cherry orchards in summer, starlings have been found to take about 18% of the crop. Starlings and corvids damage cereal sowings and corvids are known to take the eggs and young of game birds

The key reasons for managing bird populations are:

  • Reducing health and safety hazards
  • Saving money
  • Improving relations with customers and staff
  • Protecting from prosecution

At DIY Pest Control we have a range of products from deterrents such as spikes and gels to scare birds away or stop them perching to live catch traps. Please remember that a trapped bird must be humanely dispatched and must not be released back into the wild

Note that all birds are protected under:

The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
All wild birds, their nests and eggs are given protection. There are schedules to the act that modify this general protection. Birds named in schedule 1 are given special protection and there are special penalties for dealing with offences against them. There are a number of special licences issued under this act that allow certain birds to be killed by authorised persons at any time. Legislation will be covered more thoroughly under the 'control' section of the various bird pests on our site.

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