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With avian influenza in the news people are asking what they can do to control pest birds around their homes and businesses. In this post we look at the importance of effective bird control.
Its important to acknowledge that most birds don’t present a risk to people or buildings. But when birds congregate in large numbers problems can arise.
Accumulated bird waste is associated with the spread of nasty diseases including histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis. And bird droppings can disfigure buildings and cause corrosive damage to structures and equipment. Furthermore, people are increasingly concerned about the current outbreak of avian flu.
We are currently experiencing the biggest ever outbreak of bird flu or avian influenza, otherwise known as the H5N1 virus. Back in 1997 H5N1 poultry outbreaks in China and Hong Kong resulted in 18 people becoming infected and sadly six died. Scientists are currently investigating whether the risk to people is increasing.
The current status is that H5N1 rarely infects people. The virus binds to receptors in the upper airways in birds and these are less common in mammals. But scientists are aware that the more often bird flu infects mammals then the greater the chance it has to adapt and evolve to become a threat to humans.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has urged the public to inform them of any dead wild birds so they can be collected and tested. This surveillance system is intended to enable officials to maintain a close watch on the current outbreak and assess whether it is already spreading to mammals.
Almost 300 confirmed cases of H5N1 have been detected in birds in England since the current outbreak started in October 2021. But the true figure is thought to be much higher.
People have expressed concern due to Defra call handlers being apparently overwhelmed by the volume of reports. Some have highlighted how they were told to simply dispose of dead bird carcasses ‘in a bin’ if they were not collected and they were not advised to protect themselves with PPE. Yet advice on the Defra website tells people to ‘not touch dead wild birds’. They also point out that not all dead wild birds have been infected with H5N1.
Avian infection experts acknowledge that the risk of handling a dead bird is very low but recommend people take care to thoroughly wash their hands if they have any contact. The RSPCA advises people not to approach or handle birds that are suspected have avian flu and not to touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds.
It is recognised that sensible hygiene practices substantially reduce the risk to humans. People are advised not to touch any dead wild birds and they should use the online reporting system or telephone Defra to make a report. Local authorities are responsible for the disposal of dead birds on public land so the relevant local department should be contacted.
A Devon man, Alan Gosling, is reported to have previously contracted a strain of bird flu never before seen in the UK. He kept hundreds of ducks at his home in Buckfastleigh and contracted the virus due to very close, regular contact with a high number of infected birds. Sadly, his ducks had to be culled and he was required to quarantine himself at his home. As of January 2022 he was tested and found to be free of the bird flu virus.
But, as previously noted, there are many other pathogens carried by birds that can be hazardous to humans.
Seagulls, for example, are well known for their extremely acidic droppings. And, due to their diets, their droppings can potentially convey salmonella, e.coli and meningitis. And these can potentially be contracted without coming into contact as the bacteria and parasites can become airborne and inhaled.
Pigeons are another bird species known to carry many diseases (as many as 95) such as salmonella and psittacosis which can be harmful to humans when airborne or transmitted through their droppings. Some birds also carry a variety of mites, lice and other parasites.
When cleaning up bird droppings its important to exercise sensible precautions. The primary risk associated with the removal of dried bird droppings is the potential to breath in dust.
Gloves, a dust mask and goggles should always be worn and the area to be cleaned should be initially sprayed with a disinfectant, such as Guanaway Biocide. This helps to dampen down any dried material, preventing it from becoming airborne in the cleaning process. Leaving the disinfectant to soak into dried bird faeces for a few minutes makes it far easier to remove. If an extensive area, such a rooftop, has been polluted with a significant accumulation of bird poop then a hose may be necessary to dampen down the dust and loosen the encrusted, dried droppings.
When adequately soaked, bird droppings can be scraped up and swept into a bin bag which should be sealed before disposal. Once the polluted area is clean its important to change clothes and take a shower to wash away any faecal dust particles.
Bird control is essential to ensure potentially harmful bird droppings aren’t allowed to accumulate and put people at risk.
As noted, bird droppings are highly acidic and can therefore cause significant damage and deterioration to stonework and other structures and materials, including metal work. Large quantities bird poop, which contains uric acid, can actually dissolve building materials. The resulting damage is not only unsightly but can result in water leaks that require expensive repairs. For example, the life expectancy of a large warehouse rooftop can be considerably reduced by the ongoing corrosive impact of accumulated bird droppings.
External equipment, commonly used in many buildings, is also highly vulnerable to damage caused by birds. Air conditioning units and external electrical equipment are all susceptible. These important systems require regular maintenance and the accumulation of bird mess can put service technicians at risk. Some will sensibly refuse to carry out their maintenance work if machinery is covered in bird droppings.
Pest birds will also sometimes build their nests in locations that result in expensive damage. Nests built in guttering or drainage pipework create blockages causing rainwater to overflow into areas where it introduces damage which may go unseen until it becomes a significant and expensive problem. Water ingress can even cause unseen structural damage that puts people at risk.
Bird nesting material is also very dry and highly combustible. All it takes is a stray spark from a nearby bonfire, or possibly from an electrical system, and a birds nest can burst into flames. Birds will also sometimes build their nests in chimney flues which, when the fire is lit in the winter, immediately cause the birds nest to ignite.
Effective bird control is essential to minimise these risks and ensure expense isn’t incurred to remedy the damage they can cause.
Prevention is by far the best option when it comes to effective bird control. But when thinking about controlling birds its important to be aware of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it an offence to:
A variety of physical bird deterrents are commonly used. In order to comply with the law its essential that any form of bird control or deterrent doesn’t trap, injure or kill birds and deterrents mustn’t interfere with other protected species such as bats.
Netting is one form of physical bird deterrent and barrier that’s commonly used. Typically anti-bird netting is attached to stainless steel wires or cables, securing the netting in place. The netting mesh dimensions along with the spaces around the net perimeter are determined by the bird species that`s causing the problem. Its vitally important to ensure birds can’t become trapped behind the netting.
Anti bird spikes, in plastic or stainless steel, are highly effective in deterring birds from perching on specific areas such as window ledges. But when deploying these spikes its important to make certain attractive nesting sites aren’t inadvertently created behind the spikes. Also, anti bird spikes are considered by many to be visually obtrusive and adversely affect the aesthetic appearance of some buildings.
Parallel anti-bird wire systems are typically used to stop gulls and other birds from nesting on valley rooftops. Typically made from marine grade stainless steel, these wire systems use spring tensioned mountings that prevent birds from perching. The simplicity and low profile of these anti-bird-wire systems makes them far less obtrusive than anti bird spikes.
Bird repellent gel is possibly the most effective, legally compliant and totally harmless bird control system available today. Also known as Bird Free Optical Gel and Bird Free Fire Gel, this harmless substance is incredibly easy to deploy in any area where birds are inclined to congregate, roost and nest.
The material is called ‘fire gel’ due to how it appears to birds. They are sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light and the gel is formulated to give off UV light that they see as flames, so they immediately keep away. Birds also respond to the smell and taste of the gel which is formulated to be repellent.
Importantly, bird repellent fire gel is immediately effective. As soon as it is deployed birds respond by keeping away. It can be used both indoors and outdoors and doesn’t require any drilling or specialist installation, unlike some alternative bird control solutions.
Its installed in small plastic dishes just 8mm high, pre-loaded with the gel. These make it suitable for any size of anti-bird challenge, from a small balcony to a large, expansive rooftop. And since it doesn’t require any mechanical fixings its an ideal anti bird solution for historic buildings.
Its also maintenance free and lasts for many years. The gel even remains effective in deterring birds after accumulating a coating of dirt and grime due to usage in busy outdoor environments.
This anti-bird solution has been successfully used in the UK since 2011 and is now the trusted technique in all manner of installations from large train stations to public buildings and private dwellings.
In May 2018 pigeons had nested on top of spikes in the rooftop wells of 14 skylights around a Barcelona hospital. A total of 16 pigeon nests were removed, along with the spikes, and these were replaces with dishes of bird free repellent gel. In 2021 the site was revisited and it was confirmed that pigeons had not returned.
Back in 2015 Kings Cross Station in London was suffering from pigeons roosting above the Network Rail offices where their droppings were fouling the entrances. Bird free fire gel dishes were deployed around all of their favoured roosting areas and these had an immediate effect. The site was revisited in 2018 and again in 2022. On both occasions no pigeons were seen and there was no sign of foul bird mess on the pavement.
Its worth noting that some of the Bird repellent gel dishes at Kings Cross Station had become blackened by pollution over the seven and half years they had been installed, but they remained entirely effective. This is because UV light is only obscured by solid objects and not by particulates. So the Bird free fire gel remains effective event when coated with dust, dirt or rainwater.
If you have any questions about effective bird control or if you have any special requirements remember that we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide you with free, expert advice.
This message was added on Thursday 16th March 2023
Need Help or Advice?
Call the Insight team
01273 475 500