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:
- The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
- Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
- Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations 1995
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
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.