BIRDS — Pests? Problem?
birds can cause problems for you or your property. Although most
New Zealand birds are completely harmless, 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.
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 the wildlife around you. However, if birds, in your opinion, continue to be pests despite all the preventative measures that you may take, you may need to talk to your local department of conservation officers about further control possibilities.
Important to note:
There is 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). That means one cannot destroy birds willy nilly.
What to do
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
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 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 an
un-netted tree just for the birds, — to keep them away from the rest of the orchard.
Birds stealing from fish ponds
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. These birds
may keep returning to that good source of food until it has been cleaned 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 fouling paths, pools and guttering
more of what to do
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
Roofs, ceilings, ledges ...
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.
Birds that "crash in 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.
Having shutters or blinds to pull down over the aviary will stop the
Falcons may even pay a visit during the day sourcing your birds as easy prey.
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 stealing grain
Birds that receive a lot of bad press as being devourers and despoilers of grain crops include the feral pigeon and game birds. These birds have been implicated in the destruction of some crops.
However, damage caused early in a growing season is
not easy to quantify. Crop plantings can
recover from early losses. Moreover, because of patchy impact, regional
loses may be trivial even though some individual farmers may be more severly
affected than others.
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
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.
Many people have experiencedattacks by magpies and spur winged plovers and falcon. This may happenwhen breeding pairs 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 once the young are out and feeding with the adults.
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
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
Cyclists should dismount and walk through the swoop zone.
Magpies are hightly intellegent birds and can learn to identify you as a "friend" especially if one helps feed the youngsters.
And now for the ridiculous
We are familiar with bird song in the background of 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.