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Problem Birds

Birds - Pests and Problems

What to do about some birds which can cause problems for you or your property. Although most New Zealand birds are completely harmless as far as human activities are concerned, there are a few species which can pose various kinds of problems to your property or business. Some may even threaten your health. Please remember, however, that the birds are only following their instincts and taking advantage of opportunities in the same way that all of us do.

There is also a distinction between native/endemic and introduced birds; native/endemic birds are protected by law while introduced species are not (except waterfowl out of the hunting season)so you cannot just destroy birds willy nilly.

However, some forethought or lateral thinking can avoid or solve problems with minimal inconvenience to you. If the problem is minor or only occasional and does not seriously threaten your health or livelihood, consider tolerating it as a small price to pay for the pleasure of living with wildlife around you. However, if birds continue to be pests despite all the preventative measures that you take, you may need to talk to your local department of conservation officers about further control possibilities.

Birds spoiling the garden

A variety of birds are considered at times to be garden pests because of their habit of searching for food in the leaf litter and upper layers of the soil by scratching and digging. In your garden this may mean that your mulch gets thrown around everywhere, your sprinkler system disturbed and newly planted seedlings uprooted. The blackbird and thrush can cause trouble in this way ­ and the bigger the bird, the heavier the objects they can kick around. Where you have problems, it is recommended that you use a suitably coarse and heavy mulch, such as pebbles or crushed rock, to protect the ground surface, as well as placing logs or bricks around newly planted seedlings and over sprinkler lines. Seedlings can also be covered temporarily with plastic or metal mesh.

Birds attacking

Many people have experienced attacks by magpies and spur winged plovers and falcon. This may happen when breeding pairs of these birds are trying to nest and protect their eggs and chicks from the humans and dogs that are seen as potential predators. Such attacks are usually very seasonal and will normally cease. Remedies include wearing hats or helmets with big eyes painted or glued on the back, carrying sticks or flags to hold or wave above your head when in the swoop zone and simply choosing a different route to avoid the birds while the swooping occurs. A supply of decorated sticks with flags on can be stocked where, for example, schoolchildren have to cross swoop-prone open spaces. Staring at the birds when they swoop may also deter them, but it is not recommended that this be tried without wearing eye protection such as safety goggles. Cyclists should dismount and walk through the swoop zone.

Pet birds destroying your house!

“Help! My cockatoo is eating my house!” This seemingly bizarre cry for help is heard regularly. Cockatoos, especially Sulphur crested Cockatoos, like to chew on materials of certain textures and hardness. These materials include the softwoods such as western red cedar or pine used extensively for window frames and other non-structural house timbers, including weather boards. If the cockatoos are not stopped, over a period of weeks they can cause considerable damage. (The following is mainly for Australia). The best solution lies at the architectural design stage of the building ­ vulnerable softwoods should never be used externally in buildings where cockatoo chewing damage is likely. With existing buildings, it may be possible to hang out sacrificial pieces of softwood for the cockies to chew on in peace, while deterring them from attacking your house by spraying them with a hose whenever they try. If the house is not constantly attended, however, the solution may be to cover the wood with wire mesh or metal flashing. Alternatively, protective shade cloth or bird netting can be hung on a roller, attached to the eaves, so that it can be rolled up when the house is occupied. Very often, house chewing by cockatoos seems to be associated with somebody in the neighbourhood providing food for the birds, thereby attracting them close to houses. Feeding of birds in these circumstances is not recommended. Chewing of houses is only one of the problems generated by providing food for birds.

Birds taking fruit

Whether you have just one tree and a couple of fruit bushes in your back garden or own a large commercial orchard or vineyard, you will probably have found that some bird love the energy rich berries and fruits produced. Silver eyes, blackbirds, starlings and Kaka, may try to harvest some of your fruit before you can. The best remedy for this is the use of bird proof netting to stop the birds getting access to the fruit in the first place, combined with leaving a tree un-netted for the birds, to keep them away from the rest of the orchard.

Birds stealing fish

If you enjoy fish and fishing, you can find yourself sometimes at odds with birds that share your interest. A garden fishpond, filled with delectable goldfish, may come under the scrutiny of a heron, kingfisher, or shag.  This bird may keep returning to a good source of food until it has cleaned it out. Apart from providing plenty of shelter for your fish within the pond, you could also try stringing bright coloured plastic coated wires across the pond just below the water surface. The same solution may be applicable to larger areas of water, such as farm lakes and aquaculture ponds, which may attract shags. However, aquaculture ponds can be protected more securely by netting them over to exclude fishing birds completely.

Birds stealing grain

Birds that receive a lot of bad press as being devourers and despoilers of grain crops include the feral pigeons, game birds etc., these birds have been implicated as pests of some crops. However, damage caused early in a growing season is not easy to quantify as apportion of the final harvest; crop plants can recover from early losses. Moreover, because of patchy impact regional loses may be trivial even though some individual farmers may be more seriously affected. Effective measures to eliminate or reduce damage include the use of decoy crops or decoy food dumps, the development of regionally integrated crop management and the use of scare tactics occasionally reinforced by selective shooting (Remember native and endemic birds are protected by law). A long term remedy would be compensation or insurance scheme to recompense badly affected individual farmers.

The unsupervised use of poisons to kill birds is a technique that threatens other wildlife, human health and the environment. The hawk, falcon and morepork may get secondary poisoning from eating a targeted bird that is just about to die.

Birds fouling paint work etc.

In our constant quest for tidiness and order we can sometimes be frustrated by the tendencies of some birds to mess up the place ­ with their droppings, their nesting activities and their foraging behaviour. ducks, black swans, pukeko, coots and other herbivorous waterbirds can leave slippery green droppings on paths and driveways close to ornamental lakes and other waterways. Public feeding of these birds in problem areas should be discouraged, and areas of succulent vegetation ­ such as well watered and fertilised lawns ­ could be replanted with less tasty shrubs and ground cover plants. If you find ducks in your swimming pool, they may move on quickly in the absence of appropriate food. Small ducklings should be removed immediately as they may not be able to do so themselves. Regular incursions suggest the acquisition of a good pool cover. Alternatively, visual screens designed to prevent birds on the pool seeing the approach of potential predators have been effective in some situations. Such screens may be made with hessian, shade cloth or similar material, approximately one metre high, close to the edge of the pool. Red billed gulls and shags may roost on boats, with predictable consequences. The best solution is to use detachable (and washable) covers for all affected surfaces or you may try a imitations predator bird (such at eagle owl or hawk) these can be brought in some sports/fishing shops. Welcome swallows often try to build nests beneath overhangs such as the roofs of verandahs where droppings and nest debris accumulate on the floor beneath. This problem can usually be solved simply by attaching a small platform or tray immediately beneath the nest to catch the debris, which can be removed at the end of the breeding season. If nesting by swallows is definitely not wanted placing a tennis ball in the completed nest prevents use of that nest, and that site, by swallows. You can also spray or paint the attempted attachment areas for a swallow’s nest with vegetable oil, or smear them with petroleum jelly, to hinder attachment. Swallows, sparrows and feral pigeons can cause trouble by roosting on the ledges and girders beneath the ceilings of warehouses, and in other places where their droppings cover everything beneath. If it is impossible to stop the birds entering the building, try lengths of nylon fishing line strung tautly along, and a few centimetres above, the roosting ledges to prevent the birds from settling there. Welcome swallows (and other birds) can be prevented from roosting beneath the ceiling by stretching nylon fishing line along the length of the building, at 12 cm spacing, attached to the underside of roof support beams. The swallows have difficulty flying up past the lines to perch. When clearing dried droppings from buildings, wear a dust mask to prevent possible disease from inhalation of dust particles.

Bird song

We are familiar with bird song in the background to our lives, to the extent that it is routinely used to add atmosphere to films and TV shows. However, some people who are sensitive to certain sounds may be irritated by the calls of particular birds around their houses. The sound of magpies, the cries of mynas, Tui and bellbird , and even the repeated cooing of pigeons and turtledoves have all been known to upset someone at some time. Some birds are only noisy for part of the year, such as when breeding. Neighbours who feed birds and thereby attract greater numbers of them may exacerbate the problem. You may be able to solve this by talking to the neighbours or by changing the vegetation or vantage points used by the birds around the house. Otherwise, it is better to accept that the birds are there legitimately and to invest in thicker curtains double glazing or earplugs.

Birds that crash at night

You may find that if you leave your budgie or canary in a cage by a window at night that a morepork will crash into your window trying to get to the bird.  Just cover the cage up or pull the curtains, then nothing will frighten your bird.  The same goes for aviaries outside, birds of prey may visit it at night, and having shutters or blinds to pull down over the aviary will stop the attacks. Falcons may also pay a visit during the day and view your birds as a food source.  Remember these birds are protected and should not be harmed.  Try planting non-poisonous shrubs around the outside of the aviary and making the birds less visible to a predator.

Birds hitting windows

We have all had birds hitting our window at some time or another.  The problem for birds is that they see the reflection of trees and plants in the window and think they can fly straight through.  The design of some houses does not help either as often you have windows on each side of a room so birds may think they can fly through.  Decks also now have glass protection, sometimes just over a metre high and this may cause collisions for birds.  Trimming trees and shrubs that are near windows may help.  Letting deck glass get dirty.  Having a net curtain (outside) or hanging things outside the window.

Credits:
Some of these notes have been adapted from Birds Australia
Parts taken from - BA Information Sheet No.14. Page 2 of 2. Updated 18 MAR 2002


Information for this page was provided and written by Rosemary Tully;   rosemarytully@clear.net.nz
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