Pest control is a critical issue for estate and facility managers responsible for preserving and protecting London’s most historic and famous landmark buildings. From listed heritage sites popular with tourists to world-renowned prestigious hotels, a positive visitor experience is of paramount importance. When reputation is everything, what visitors see and say about must-see London buildings is vital to safeguarding their crowd-pulling potential and profits.
While many London buildings have robust plans in place to deal with common ground level pests such as rodents, ants and even cockroaches, combatting bird pests presents different challenges. Birds – and London’s abundant pigeon population in particular – can be a nuisance to people and endanger property. Much of the threat comes from the birds’ waste which is caustic enough to attack concrete and steel. What’s more, pest birds can be harmful to human health, spreading food borne illnesses such as salmonella and histoplasmosis.
Where will you find London’s pigeons?
Pigeon activity around buildings will be driven by a search for food, shelter, somewhere to rest and a safe place to roost. As is their nature, birds are attracted to high-up areas like ledges and rooflines, lamp posts, signage etc. because that is where they feel most protected from non-avian predators. “Rooftops offer sheltered nesting areas, the ability to scout for food, and a place to hide from predators. Flat rooftops also collect water, which birds use to bathe and drink,” says a recent article on general bird activity on properties.
Unsurprisingly, birds will congregate around sources of food, with outside patios and open-air dining areas being particularly attractive to them. Unfortunately, this can be made worse by well-meaning people feeding birds in outside eating areas or in London’s parks.
Roosting and nesting pigeons prefer sheltered areas such as empty spaces such as garages, roof voids or overhangs, large archways, doorways, trees and covered porches.
In London, feral pigeons breed all year round and return to the same buildings in London on a regular basis as their nature dictates. English Heritage even offers information about pigeons in historic buildings and how to manage them.
What are the challenges?
One of the first challenges that a pest bird infestation presents is cleaning. Hard-to-access places like window ledges and rooflines may not normally be cleaned on a regular basis, but this will become a necessity if there is visible bird soiling present.
What’s more, window cleaning operatives may not be able to work safely in an area where there are nesting birds protecting their young. This makes it necessary for a bird control company to attend to resolve the problem before any cleaning activity can be scheduled.
But perhaps a more serious challenge is the very real danger that bird waste can pose. Whether on rooftops or other areas of a building, attention tends to be focused on deterring the pigeons rather than dealing with the accumulation of faecal matter. That said, it is the droppings that may have different types of diseases in them, so the health hazard remains real. Feral pigeons are “carriers of serious human diseases including salmonellosis, psittacosis and pseudo-tuberculosis. Their faeces provide an ideal environment for the growth of the organisms causing such diseases as histoplasmosis, aspergillosis, cryptococcis and listeriosis,” explains one bird control expert.
What are the best solutions?
Effective bird pest control should start by modifying the animals habitat so that access to food, shelter, rest and roosting is removed. Follow a few key initiatives, including:
- Keep all areas free from food debris to discourage birds in the first place.
- Keep any possible food sources well hidden so that they will not be detected by birds.
- Ensure that dustbin lids are secure and that rubbish bags are not left out in the open.
- Advise visitors NOT to feed the pigeons with signage on patios, alfresco dining areas or indeed anywhere at all where tourists congregate outside.
As a next step, investigate the many mechanical devices available that can be used to block access and repel pigeons from returning to the site. Visual scent and sound devices can also be deployed. The most popular bird proofing methods and pest deterrents include:
- Bird control netting
- Anti-perch bird spikes
- Decoy birds with realistic sound
Before you install bird deterrent on the premises, do check which species you are dealing with. Bear in mind that all wild birds, including their nests and eggs, are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means that you can be prosecuted for illegally interfering with a bird without a wildlife licence.
Specific exemptions via a wildlife licence can be issued to professional pest controllers to deal with certain species. The list of birds that are considered pests can change regularly, meaning you should always consult with a professional before you go ahead with any form of bird control measures.
In order to comply with the legislation, it is highly recommended that you draw up an integrated pest management plan in cooperation with trained pest control professionals, using the three pillars of ‘inspection, identification and treatment’ to find sound common sense, long-term solutions. In this way, building managers are more able to keep landmark sites in London free from pesky birds and the vast flocks of pigeons that continue to call the amazing capital their home.