Dealing with nuisance birds

Some species of birds can create a nuisance, including noise, fouling and even causing property damage. All wild birds in Northern Ireland are protected by law. Find out about the options open to you when dealing with a problem involving birds.

Protection

Choosing the right course of action is essential as it is illegal to intentionally harm or kill any wild bird species. You are not allowed to take wild birds' eggs. It is against the law to disturb, damage or destroy nests.

Identifying a bird

If you have a bird problem, it's worth identifying what sort of bird is causing it as it may affect what you can do about it. For example, disturbing certain specially protected birds when they are on or near their nest is illegal.

You can research a bird in a bird book or an encyclopaedia. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has information about birds:

You can find out more about laws related to wildlife and nature conservation in Northern Ireland at the following links:

Solving the problem without harming the bird

A broad range of techniques is available to deal with nuisance caused by birds. These include:

  • noise deterrents, like recordings of the bird’s own alarm calls or loud bangs
  • using a scarecrow
  • using netting or bird-spikes (‘proofing’) to prevent birds landing or accessing areas where they’re known to cause problems
  • restricting access to food – for example, by cleaning up food spills immediately and keeping rubbish in secure bins

Using proofing

Proofing can be used effectively with the herring gull. The gulls commonly nest on roof-tops, where their noise and swooping at people can be a nuisance. Proofing the site before the gulls return in spring can prevent this problem from happening again.

Netting and spikes can also be used very effectively to prevent pigeons nesting or roosting.

Not feeding birds in urban areas

Feeding problem wild birds in public urban areas can make the birds expect food from people and can cause swooping. Swooping can scare some people and large aggressive species like gulls can actually cause injury.

Feeding can also greatly increase populations of birds like waterfowl and pigeons.

Deterring birds: advice

The RSPB has advice on deterring a number of birds that are seen as pests, including pigeons and gulls. See the links below for further information:

Taking further action to deal with nuisance birds

Not all of the measures you can take are lasting solutions. The law recognises that in some circumstances you may be able to take action that would normally be seen as an offence. This is called ‘licensing’. Licences are only available under certain conditions; the two most relevant to nuisance problems being:

  • to protect public health and safety
  • to prevent serious damage to crops, vegetables and fruit

Local councils and nuisance birds

Local councils have limited ability to deal with bird related problems as these aren't usually within their responsibility. However, in some circumstances they may take action under a general licence to reduce feral pigeon or gull numbers for public health reasons.

Avian (bird) flu and dead birds

For information on avian flu and how to deal with dead birds, go to:

Abandoned and injured birds

The RSPB can offer you advice about birds and bird-related law but does not collect young or abandoned birds – you should leave these where they are found. The USPCA or a private veterinary practice can advise you on what to do with injured birds.

More useful links

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