Social Housing Management: Controlling Wild Bird Infestations

For anyone who has lived close by to seagulls will know how much of a pest they can be. They are very loud and love to screech early in the morning and throughout the day. Tenants will often complain about this which leaves the question, what can actually be done?

Most birds can be considered a pest if it is damaging the building, but the main species that are well known for causing havoc are:

  • Seagulls
  • Pigeons
  • Sparrows
  • Starlings

Apart from the noise complaints caused by those pesky seagulls birds can cause many other problems for the building and tenants. They can block rainwater goods, encourage insect infestations, the droppings can leave large areas of staining which can be a trip hazard and birds can be carriers of disease. Seagulls also tend to defend their territory and swoop down attacking if you walk close to their young which can be quite startling for the elderly.

It is important to identify the species of bird that is causing the problem as a mesh suitable for a seagull will not prevent the likes of a house sparrow. I will now list some of the main control methods used to deter or eliminate birds.

Nesting birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is illegal to tamper with a bird’s nesting site, to prevent access to a bird’s nest or to take or destroy eggs. Only birds listed in the relevant General Licence can be removed by an authorised, qualified person. The General Licence does allow for killing certain types of birds but only to preserve public health or public safety and not because they are damaging property or presenting a nuisance. Check out the website for full details on this.

The birds that can be caught alive or killed under the General Licence include:

  • crows
  • collared doves
  • jackdaws
  • jays
  • lesser black-backed gulls
  • magpies
  • pigeons (feral and woodpigeon)
  • rooks


Due to the legalities involved for using lethal means, it is always best to seek specialist advice before deciding on the best way of treating a pest problem. Some of the control measures that can be used include:

  1. Food Sources – very simple, ask tenants to stop feeding the birds. In some cases this can reduce the issue by removing the food source.
  2. Net Systems – netting used across roosting site can be utilised to prevent the birds gaining access. This can be good to protect particular areas of interest on historic buildings.
  3. Spikes – I have used these to good effect but birds do sometimes eventually make there way through the spikes and manage to nest. So this is by no means definitive. This can be a long lasting deterrent which are simply glued in place.
  4. Spring Wire – Usually installed on a flat surface such as ledges and beams to deter the birds perching. These are more invasive to the building than spikes as they will usually be drilled and fixed into place.
  5. Decoys – Fake models of birds of prey are designed to scare off pest birds. These seem to be fairly effective for office block flat roofs but would might not be as useful for domestic situations.
  6. Repellant Gels – These don’t seem to be very good for historic buildings as they can cause damage. It also looks quite unsightly on a window sill and might only remain effective from two months to a year.
  7. Sonic Devices – These can be set to different frequencies to deter different animals as required. I can’t speak to their effectiveness but I would presume it would really come down to the positioning of the unit.
  8. Electro-deterrent System – This works giving the nuisance birds a small shock when a bird lands on the track, this is harmless to the birds. This would be a more expensive but more discreet option to spikes.
  9. Birds of Prey – The flying of birds of prey in areas with feral bird problems can be useful as it convinces pidgeons and gulls that there is a threat to their nesting sites. It is one of the least invasive techniques but requires multiple visits.
  10. Lethal Means – shooting and poising can be utilised if it falls under the general licence, specialist advice shout be sought to ensure you are complying with the law. It should be noted that non-lethal methods of control, which frighten birds off, remove areas of habitat or sources of food, are far more effective in the long run.

There are some other options such as bird deterrent reflective tape but I don’t consider this to be a viable option for use in social housing. Dealing with bird pests is certainly not as easy a task as you might presume but with careful consideration a solution can usually be found to reduce the risk to humans and buildings. If you enjoyed this post please feel free to subscribe via email to get the most up to date posts.

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