Pest birds and their associated debris have long been known to be a source of bacteria and insects. Bird faeces, in particular the droppings from pigeons, gulls and starlings are a breeding ground for pathogens, some of which can be harmful to people.
In small amounts bird droppings are not usually an issue, however when faeces is allowed to build-up over time or there is a sudden increase due to an infestation, the risk of exposure is greatly increased.
Populations of birds including pigeons and gulls, have risen significantly in many urban areas over the past few years. They are adept scavengers and opportunists, making the most of our discarded food, litter and dustbin contents. These nuisance birds have also adapted to urban living, using roof ridges, parapets, balustrades and high ledges as safe roosting and nesting areas.
Up to 60 per cent of some bird species may carry harmful bacteria, which is usually passed on when people unknowingly breathe in the dried and powdered faeces. A few examples include:
Salmonellosis – caused by Salmonella sp. bacteria. All species of birds can pass this through their faeces. Infection can occur through consuming food or water contaminated by an infected bird (or mammal). Symptoms can include: Diarrhoea, fever, vomiting, nausea and abdominal cramps. In most cases the illness lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.
Ornithosis – often referred to as Psittacosis or Parrot Fever, is caused by the Chlamydophila psittaci bacterium. It’s usually contracted via infected parrots, but pigeons have also been responsible for transmitting the disease. Infection occurs through inhaling the airborne faecal or feather particles from infected birds. After an incubation period of 5-19 days the symptoms resemble those of typhoid fever, such as abdominal pain, headaches, fever, and diarrhoea.
For businesses nuisance birds can become an issue, as they can put both staff and customers at risk, as well as generating a negative image. They be particularly difficult for food based businesses as a bird infestation (along with associated pathogens) can conflict with food safety standards and regulations.
Preventing nuisance birds
The best way to discourage birds from your property is to remove their food sources, however, in busy urban areas this is not always an easy or practical solution. If birds are causing a nuisance at your business premises there are some tactics that you could try:
- Removing access to nesting sites (for instance by putting barriers over window ledges) can be an effective bird deterrent.
- Keep any possible food sources well hidden from opportunistic pigeons and gulls
- Make sure bin lids are secure and rubbish bags are not left in the open – gulls, especially, have sharp beaks that will make short work of bin bags.
Bird Control legislation
There are possible implications with any actions taken that affect bird species in the UK, which are governed by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). All wild bird species (including their nests and eggs) are protected by law in the UK. You should be able to avoid harming birds by timing any work to avoid the breeding season (usually between March and August) and by using professional pest control methods that deter the birds, but do not harm them.
Avoiding bird issues by taking preventative measures such as bird netting, hawking or specialist bird proofing will reduce the need for more complex bird control solutions and any associated licences required under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
Our methods for controlling nuisance birds at Rentokil Pest Control comply with the legislation set out in the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and are approved by the relevant Legislative Bodies; Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), The Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Department of the Environment.
If nuisance birds are causing problems for your business, there are solutions to deal with them legally, but you will need the knowledge, experience and advice of professionally qualified avian specialists for a long-term resolution to your bird issues.