Birds as Pests - The Facts

Feral Pigeon (columba livia)

The feral pigeon is approximately 32cm in length, usually a blue grey colour although brown, white and mottled birds are not uncommon. They normally have a white rump and black wing bars. Pigeons can breed all year round and typically produce 2-3 broods per annum usually with 2 eggs per clutch. These birds will live in on and around buildings. They are regarded as a pest due to the fouling, smell and noise they make.

Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

The collared dove is smaller in size approximately 27cm in length, normally a fawn-grey colour with a narrow black band at the back of the neck and a white tail tip. These birds are not normally regarded as a pest as they tend to nest in trees and do not normally cause a problem for humans.

Wood Pigeon (columba palumbus)

The wood pigeon is the largest of the three at a length of approximately 40cm.These birds are not normally regarded as a pest as they tend to nest in trees and do not normally cause a problem for humans.

Seagulls (larus occidentalis)

Seagulls are now a common pest in and around London. They can cause problems wherever they make their nests. Seagulls like all living creatures are very protective of their nests, eggs and babies, if you happen to disturb a seagull, it will attack you without doubt. As with other pest birds, seagulls cause damage to buildings with their fouling.

House Sparrow (passer domesticus)

House Sparrows are now not quite as common as they once were a few years ago. We now do not receive as many calls for sparrow infestations as we used to. House Sparrows can become a pest when they decide to occupy a building such as a warehouse where they can damage goods with their fouling, and can also peck open bags of grain and suchlike.

Starling (sturnus vulgaris)

Starlings like all birds, are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Therefore we would require a special licence to control starlings. As with other birds, they can cause damage to buildings with their fouling and nests.

Bird Control

Because of the high risk to the health to humans from the diseases carried by feral pigeons, and due to their close proximity to man, it is necessary to carry out the control measures to ensure the well being of humans.

There are a number of methods that we use to control pigeons. We are strictly limited by legislation to the control methods that we are allowed to use. The Wild Birds Directive 79/409/EEC provides protection for all bird species. Birds may only be controlled in certain circumstances which are very closely controlled in some member states of the EEC. Some control methods require pest control operators to be licensed, and may require written permission before commencement of work.

The methods of control that we use are proofing, trapping, scaring, narcotising, and culling. In our experience working in and around London, we are usually called upon to deal with feral pigeons. The first consideration for control of feral pigeons would be proofing. This is a general term which means blocking access to the areas where pigeons are roosting or nesting. Some of the proofing methods we use are netting, anti-perch spikes, sprung wire system, and bird shock flex track.

For us netting would always be the first method to consider. To install a net provides a physical barrier that no bird can breach. Netting cannot be used in all circumstances, but where possible this would be our first consideration.

Anti-perch spikes are very effective in keeping pigeons and gulls away from favoured roosting sites, with the proper application, this method can be almost as good as netting.

Sprung wire system, again this method has its place in our armoury; this method can be used instead of the anti-perch spikes where the bird problem is not so concentrated.

Bird shock flex track can also be used in place of the spike and sprung wire system, this system requires a power source as it works by giving birds a mild shock as they try to land on the surface. This will deter pest birds very effectively.

Trapping consists of setting up a number of traps out of view, normally on high buildings, the full pre-baiting and trapping usually takes six weeks and a large number of birds can be removed from the site over this period. This system will not remove a flock completely, as new birds will move into the territory to take over when the resident population has been decimated by the trapping. This system would usually be an ongoing method to control numbers.

Scaring can be one of two methods, we can use hawks to scare the birds from the area, or we can using scaring machines which give off distress calls and scare the birds away from the site. Scaring is only a temporary measure and pest birds will return to the area once they are sure that the hawk is no longer a danger to them. For this reason, it would be normal to have this type of work carried out on a regular basis.

Pigeon culling can be an effective way to control pest birds, like scaring, it would require regular culls to keep levels of pest birds under control.

Diseases carried by pigeons

Pigeons carry Ornithosis, a potentially fatal disease similar to viral pneumonia which can be transmitted to man through infected droplets or respiratory droplets. Surveys have shown that up to 75% of a pigeon flock could be infected. Ornithosis is usually mistaken for flu in humans, and therefore may be more common than is realised. There are other diseases associated with birds including Allergic Alveolitis and Histoplasmosis caused by fungal spores in bird droppings.

Apart from the disease carried by pigeons, there are many and numerous insects and mites associated with their nests and fouling. Some of these are noted below.

Varied carpet beetle, Fur beetle, Case-bearing clothes moth, Brown house moth, White shouldered house moth, Dermestes beetle, Yellow mealworm beetle, Biscuit beetle, Australian spider beetle, Cheese Mite, Flour mite, House itch mite, Lesser house fly, Blue bottles and Red spider mite.

Some of these pests can cause damage to clothing and foodstuffs, and can carry diseases transmittable to humans, it is therefore very important that we consider this when dealing with pest birds.