Seagulls

The Gull or Seagull is a medium to large bird usually gray or white and often has black marking on its head and wings. It has a long bill and webbed feet.  Gulls are ground nesting birds.  They are found in coastal areas and rarely stray far from land, they have however been known to take up residence hundreds of miles inland. These highly intelligent birds have learned to co-exist successfully with humans.  Gulls are common at dumpsites, harbours, piers, around fishing boats and shopping centers.  They are hazardous to low flying aircraft.  Damage caused by Seagulls Structural damage can be caused from the buildup of gull droppings and from the uric acid contained in the droppings.  Seagull droppings are nutrient-rich waste, a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and other organisms that may cause diseases.  Some of the common disease-causing organisms found in their droppings are E. Coli, Cryptococcosis and Histoplasmosis. Bird droppings are also difficult to clean. As a pest, gulls attack people and pets for food and when protecting their young.  They pick at roofing materials to build their nests and block gutters with their nests holding moisture against the...

Read More

Geese

Some people see geese as a beautiful birds, others find them a nuisance when they gather in large numbers in areas where they may damage turf or pose nuisance and sanitary problems. Geese typically adapt well to people and therefore, there are established flocks in metropolitan areas Geese prefer to settle in areas with a nice water source and lots of grass around it. The feed on the grass and build their nests along the water line.All too often they choose areas that are shared by people such as golf courses, parks, yards and even along our airport runways. The mess they create can be an issue in these shared areas; the average goose creates about a 500 grams of waste a day. They can also be a hazard to aircraft when they share the skies with planes that are landing and taking off. Because of the lack of predators urban geese have a much lower mortality rate than their rural counterparts, their life spans may reach 20 years or more. In addition to their longevity, their prolific breeding habits result in large numbers of geese in an area. Urban geese are often not migratory and are a potential problem year round. Geese prefer to nest in the same area year after year and nesting sites are always associated with water. To locate a nest, look for the male goose standing guard. A short distance from the male you will likely see the female lying low with her neck stretched out. Only the female incubates the eggs. Adult geese remain flightless for about 4 weeks during the time when they molt, typically in December. At the same time, young geese (goslings) have not yet attained flight. They seek refuge in an area free from predators such as city parks, golf courses, and other grassy, urban areas. There are two key habitat features for urban geese – water and expanses of turf. Damage caused by Geese Geese feed on grasses including corn, wheat and turf grass as well as other succulent crops and plants. Geese produce large quantities of faeces. Excessive amounts of goose droppings left on a playground, golf course or athletic field may render it unfit for use. Droppings in ponds may raise the coliform bacteria count to an unhealthy level. Loose feathers during the moulting season can present a litter problem. During the nesting season, adults will...

Read More

Swallows

Each spring the swallows return to South Africa to build their mud nests and have their young. Unfortunately they like to use buildings, barns, homes and other areas like bridges and underpasses to build their nests. The eave of a home makes the perfect place for a swallow to build its nest. It provides shelter and protection from predators. Swallow Nesting Sites Swallows like to build their nests on surfaces that are easy to “stick” their nesting material to, such as wood, stucco, masonry and concrete. They will choose a shady spot like under the eave of a house, bridge or overpass, and other areas with right angles to the walls. This also poses a problem when non-migratory birds such as house sparrows and starlings move in to vacated nests. Eventually the nests will fall to the ground where there is a chance that the bugs, fleas, ticks and mites found in them can spread to humans or animals such as dogs and cats. Damage Caused by Swallows Swallows nest in large colonies which can cause big problems for building managers and homeowners. Each year countless hours and Rands are spent cleaning up after the swallows.  Not only do swallow droppings look horrible on benches, buildings and cars, but they also speed deterioration. Droppings can damage machinery, contaminate foods and burn your lawn. Sometimes, swallow droppings can make a surface slick and dangerous to walk on. A large amount of swallow fecal matter may produce a nasty smell and damage plants and crops. Diseases Carried by Swallows Not only are their droppings unsightly, but they can carry diseases that are harmful to humans and other animals. Swallows carry diseases, including histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, cryptococcosis and toxoplasmosis. These swallow illnesses are spread by contact with swallow droppings, nest materials and dead swallows.  Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease contracted through airborne spores in swallow droppings. If swallows have been on your roof for a while, these spores can even infect the soil you garden in down below. Its symptoms may be anything from a mild influenza to blood abnormalities and fever, or even death. An eye condition has been linked to histoplasmosis and it can lead to blindness in those who contract it. Toxoplasmosis is an infection that invades human tissue and can severely damage the central nervous system, especially in babies. Pregnant women are in extreme danger if infected with...

Read More

Sparrows

The house sparrow Passer domesticus is indigenous to Eurasia and North Africa. It is believed to have been introduced to southern Africa from India in the late 1890s. Today the house sparrow is widely distributed, but only where there are human settlements, as the bird nests in buildings and is largely dependent on people for food. As its name suggests, it is common around houses, where it can forage for scraps of food discarded by people. There are many reports of it feeding in canteens in buildings, even learning to activate automatic doors to gain entry. It is often found in stables, barns and granaries, where it can eat seeds and grains, sometimes stolen from animal feed or pecked from droppings. It also feeds on a variety of insects, spiders, berries and flower buds. Unfortunately, the house sparrow’s success as an invader has been at the expense of indigenous birds, and it is accused of causing the decline of a number of cavity-nesting species where it has been introduced. The house sparrow out-competes such birds for nest sites and aggressively evicts those that attempt to nest in its territory. In doing so, the males may destroy the eggs of a nesting pair, kill nestlings and sometimes even kill incubating females. Reference: Matthews S. & Brandt K.   Africa Invaded: The growing danger of invasive alien species  Global Invasive Species Programme 2004 Damage Caused by Sparrows House Sparrows droppings and feathers create janitorial problems as well as hazardous, unsanitary, and odoriferous situations inside and outside of buildings and sidewalks under roosting areas. They can contaminate and deface buildings with their nests and acidic droppings, which can damage the finish on automobiles, block gutters (with nests), and create fire hazards (e.g., when nesting around power lines, lighted signs or electrical substations and in dryer vents.) Last, but not least, they are also a factor in dissemination of about 29 human and livestock diseases and internal parasites such as equine encephalitis, West Nile (they are carriers, but it usually does not kill them as it has killed crows in the past), vibriosis, and yersinosis, chlamydiosis, coccidiosis, erysipeloid, Newcastle’s, parathypoid, pullorum, salmonellosis, transmissible gastroenteritis, tuberculosis, acariasis, schistosomiasis, taeniasis, toxoplasmosis, and trichomoniasis. The house sparrow was implicated as the main reservoir for mosquito-borne West Nile virus in the United States. The virus is widely distributed in Africa, Asia and Europe, but had never been recorded...

Read More

Starlings

Starlings are well adapted to urban life which offer it an abundance of food and nesting sites. It is a muscular bird about eight inches long with long wings and a short squared tail. Starlings are very aggressive and will drive native birds out of their territory, much to the dismay of local bird watchers. Starlings are well noted for their flocking habits, creating a huge nuisance when roosting in populated areas. Starlings are a major nuisance in urban areas due to their nesting, eating and living habits. When the bird is in its flocking phase, thousands of starlings often overwhelm urban buildings. Damage Caused by Starlins Large scale buildup of faeces from these flocks will lead to structural damage. The uric acid in the faeces will corrode stone, metal and masonry. Gutters and drainage pipes clogged with starling nests often backup, causing extensive water damage. The bacteria, fungal agents and parasites in the faeces also pose a serious health...

Read More

Feral Pigeons

Feral Pigeons Sometimes known as “flying rats”, they are birds which are descended from Rock doves and which interbreed with escaped racing pigeons and pigeons from domestic pigeon lofts. Their colours vary considerably from blue-grey, through blues, reds, mottled patterns and charcoal to almost pure white. The feral pigeon is a descendant of the domestic homing pigeons introduced to South Africa from Europe in the 1800’s. Several traits have allowed feral flocks to increase in numbers and dominate the urban landscape due to the availability of food, fresh water and secure breeding sites. As a result, there has been an increase in feral pigeon numbers in certain areas of South Africa.  Pigeon Facts Life span of 3-4 years in the wild and up to 16 years in captivity. Pigeons are monogamous and a mating pair will have 3 to 4 broods per year of 1-2 eggs each. Eggs are a solid white colour and hatch in 18 days, and the young leave the nest within 35 days. Pigeons do not migrate, staying near their birth site (which may be your premises).  Identifying a Feral Pigeon The standard feral pigeon is generally: Blue-grey with a white rump.                                           Has iridescent feathers on head and neck. Two broad black bars across each wing. A broad dark band across the end of the tail. They can also display white, brown or grey plumage.  Problems and Health Risks The presence of pigeons can result in a range of problems. These can include: Attracting ticks, cockroaches and rats. Damage to buildings and monuments due to the highly corrosive nature of acid in pigeon droppings. Damage to properties by pigeons roosting/breeding in roof spaces, rolled steel joists and inside factory units. Debris from roosting flocks building up, causing gutters and drains to block, damage to roofs and other structures, and creating potential fire hazards. Extensive damage to air-conditioning units and other roof top machinery. Hygiene concerns due to pigeon droppings in/on industrial, commercial, and domestic buildings. Providing a vector for the introduction of weeds and disease. Increasing the risk of disease and parasite transmission between feral, domestic and seabird populations. Escalating costs through public liability insurance from slipping on dropping build up. What do they eat? Many people see these birds as part of our natural wildlife and enjoy seeing and feeding them. Part of their appeal is that they can become very tame and will...

Read More