APCA Members are required to possess TAFE or APCA Pest Control Certificate and extensive field work experience in the pest control service industry

Australian Pest Control Association
APCA Pest Control Certificate course details

Week 4 - Day 16 - Bird Pests


Urban Pest Management in Australia: 2004 Edition, UNSW Press, Sydney

by J Gerozisis and P Hadlington - Chapter 15 - Pages 193 to 195.

Chapter 15 – Birds - bird problems - common pest species - prevention and control - deterrent methods - trapping - poisoning - shooting


Pest status:

It is an irrefutable fact that the vast majority of birds provide much pleasure for humans and many play an important role in the web of life. However, some birds, especially the introduced species, can be regarded as pests in many situations and even some native birds are often less than welcome on certain occasions.  The reasons why some birds can be considered pests are:-

  1. Defacement Bird droppings frequently deface public buildings, private dwellings, ledges, windows and footpaths.  Inside, droppings may fall on machinery, tools, structural timbers and clothing.  Accumulated moist droppings may serve as a medium for fly breeding and development.
  2. Property Damage Droppings may stop up gutters and downpipes, causing roofs to leak.  Roofing life can be cut dramatically by prolonged bird usage.  The droppings can be responsible for rust and corrosion and the uric acid content can mar the paint on automobiles, machinery and buildings.
  3. Disease Potential Some virulent diseases can be spread by pest birds. Some important fungal diseases are closely linked with bird droppings which serve as a disease reservoir. The better known diseases include cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis, Newcastle disease, psittacosis, gastroenteritis, encephalitis, toxoplasmosis and aspergillosis.
  4. Associated Pests Certain insects, mites and ticks capable of affecting the well-being of humans and animals can be found living on birds or in their nests.  Such pests include: bed bugs, carpet beetles, clothes moths, cadelle beetles, red poultry mite, tropical fowl mite, pigeon tick, spider beetle, lesser house fly, larder beetle and many others.
  5. Contamination of Food and Feed Pest birds may not directly consume much food but they are capable of contaminating vast amounts.  Droppings may contain vast numbers of viable organisms capable of adversely affecting one's health.  Contaminated livestock feed and food intended for humans must be discarded, thus increasing costs. Food can also be contaminated by feathers, ectoparasites, debris from birds' nests and dead birds.
  6. Depredation of Crops Some pest birds, including some native species, may cause severe damage to growing crops such as grapes, apples, cherries, cereals and sunflowers.  They may also feed on garden produce as well as stored grain.
  7. Noise Starlings in particular can create a considerable disturbance when roosting together.  This exasperating noise may prevent people from sleeping.
  8. Safety Hazard Gregarious birds that form large flocks can become hazardous to aviation.  Starlings and seagulls have been responsible for aircraft crashes. In addition, accumulations of bird droppings on footpaths, steps and fire escapes may render them hazardous to pedestrian traffic.
  9. Displacement of Native Birds Colourful native birds are often compelled to leave an area when incapable of competing against aggressive pest species for food and nesting sites.

Pest species:

INDIAN or COMMON MYNA             Acridotheres tristis
This bird was introduced into Australia from south-east Asia in the 1860's and can now be found around Sydney and some country areas of N.S.W., Melbourne, Adelaide, eastern Queensland and northern Tasmania. The species is quite common in those areas.


The Indian myna is mainly a scavenger of streets, parks and rubbish dumps and has not caused any economic harm. However, because of its habit of living close to man, its presence is more obvious than some major pest species. In daylight hours, mynas are commonly seen in scattered pairs or small family groups, feeding on the ground or perching on elevated sites.  At night, they roost together in groups in dense trees or under cover such as the underside of a bridge.
The myna constructs a nest made of an untidy cluster of dried grass, usually in a tree hollow or in thick vegetation.  The breeding season is mainly from October to March.  Three to six pale blue eggs are laid, approximately 30 by 22 mm in size.

At maturity the birds are approximately 240 mm in length with both sexes being of similar appearance.  The head and neck region is dark brown with a green sheen.  The other upper parts are rich cinnamon - brown, slightly paler on the underparts.  The eye is yellow with a large bare patch of skin behind and around the eye.  The beak and legs are yellow.

ENGLISH STARLING            Sturnus vulgaris

The English (or European) starling was introduced into Victoria in 1861 and later years and was originally a protected species.  Since that time it has become widely distributed in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales and parts of Queensland.  In these regions it can be found in cities, towns and open country areas.

Pest status

The starling is regarded as a pest for several reasons.  Its habit of congregating in large flocks, especially in the winter months, may lead to serious defacement of buildings and to deterioration of metal gutters and flashing due to the acid nature of its droppings.  The noise created by large numbers of these birds can also be a major source of annoyance.  It may attack soft fruits and seedlings as well as food intended for livestock.  The starling will successfully compete with native birds, excluding them from an area, and its ectoparasites can make a building unfit for human habitation until the birds and nest have been removed.  It has also been implicated in the transmission of the disease, histoplasmosis. On the credit side, the starling does destroy a wide variety of insects including some known pest species.  However, it is fair to say that its faults outweigh its virtues.


During the day the birds will forage for food as individuals, often returning at night to a central roosting area such as a building or a group of trees.  It is very hard to discourage this practice as they soon become accustomed to regular noises, traffic and lights.


The breeding season is usually September to January.  Two broods are usually laid, 5 to 7 eggs in each brood.  The, eggs are pale blue to white in colour. The nest is an untidy assortment of straw and feathers placed in a hole in a tree or in a crevice in a building.


Juvenile birds are a dull mouse-grey or grey-brown in colour.  Adults have black feathers with green, blue and purple iridescence.  The beak is drab in colour for most of the year but it becomes bright yellow in the breeding season. The adult bird is 190 to 215 mm in length.

HOUSE SPARROW               Passer domesticus

The house (or English) sparrow was first introduced into Australia in 1862 and is now widely distributed throughout urban and country areas of most parts of eastern Australia including Tasmania. Although small in size, the sparrow can be a considerable pest in gardens, orchards and around buildings where it constructs its nest.  Sparrows move in flocks and may drive small native birds out of an area.

Pest status

They sometimes enter houses via chimneys causing concern to the inhabitants.  Their nests are almost invariably built in or near buildings. These nests, constructed of twigs, grass, paper or rag, are built in gutters, on roofs, on building ledges, inside buildings and only occasionally, in trees and shrubs.  Nests constructed around power lines and in electrical substations can create serious fire hazards. Their droppings are a source of considerable annoyance. Large numbers of them can cause serious economic loss when they feed around poultry establishments and they are also suspected to be carriers of certain poultry diseases. Experiments in other countries have led to the conclusion that sparrows may act as a reservoir for the disease, encephalitis.


The breeding season for sparrows is usually spring and summer but often occurs at other times. There are usually five or six eggs, variable in colour but usually greyish­white finely spotted grey and brown.


Adult sparrows are 140 to 160 mm long.  The male sparrow has its crown, centre of the nape, rump and tail a light to medium grey.  The back and wings are buffy brown and the wings have 2 white bars.  The throat and adjoining area of the upper breast are black.  The female is a lighter buffy brown above with a white throat and a dark streak through the eye region.  Both sexes have dark beaks, brown eyes and buffy brown legs and feet.


PIGEON            Columba livia
The pigeon is by far the most important bird pest in areas of human habitation and can now be found in most of the world, particularly in the larger cities.  It is not so widespread in country areas because it is dependent upon man to a great extent.

Pigeons commonly eat seeds and grain, other vegetable matter, some fruit, some animal food such as insects and spiders, some garbage and enough grit to ensure proper digestion.  They consume approximately 500 grams per week.  Deliberate feeding, lack of sanitation and suitable "cliff type" nesting sites are the main factors that attract pigeons to cities. Pigeons are creatures of habit and tend to feed, nest and roost in the same places.  In city areas they move in flocks of several hundred, flying and roosting together.  Since they were originally cliff dwellers, they like to roost on high perches such as window ledges.  They will also construct their nests of sticks and grass in such locations.

Pest status
Although many people are highly tolerant towards pigeons in public places, they certainly merit their label as the primary bird pest species.  Their droppings deface buildings, statues and motor vehicles and may also kill lawns and shrubbery when present in large amounts.  Nests can obstruct drainpipes and gutterings, mar window ledges and create hazardous footing on fire escapes.  Droppings, feathers and nesting materials may contaminate foodstuffs such as grain and large quantities of this may be consumed by pigeons living around grain-handling establishments.


Pigeons harbour many diseases some of which are quite virulent.  These diseases may be spread to man, generally through droppings or via respiratory droplets.  Some of the better known diseases include:-
1)            Pigeon ornithosis - a psittacosis ­like virus disease causing only mild symptoms in man;

    • Encephalitis - a virus disease which cAn be transmitted to man from birds via mosquitoes;
    • Aspergillosis - a fungus disease of the human ear, sinuses, lungs or skin.


    Pigeons also harbour many ectoparasites, some of which cause discomfort to man or transmit disease.  These include bugs similar to bed bugs, flies, ticks and mites.  These mites, usually the tropical fowl mite or starling mite (Ornithonyssus bursa) and the red poultry mite  (Dermanyssus gallinae) can be the cause of severe discomfort when they enter into areas of human habitation.


    In addition to the mites, other pests such as carpet beetles, drugstore beetles, spider beetles, mealworms, dermestids and flies may all be found in birds' nests.  These nests may be constructed on building ledges, on girders, on roofs, in guttering, under bridges or on cliffs.  There are 1 to 2 white eggs laid in each batch, with several batches being laid each year.  The young birds are fed pre-digested food ("pigeon milk") which gradually becomes thicker in consistency until the birds are weaned and ready to leave the nest.


    Pigeons are easily recognised because of their large size (300 - 350mm in length), stout body, short legs and beak and smooth, compact plumage. There are many domesticated varieties with greatly differing colour patterns often in varying tones of grey.  They may live for many years, commonly living for 15 years and occasionally for 30 years or more.

    Some native birds can also be regarded as pests under certain circumstances.  These include the:-

    SILVER GULL or SEA GULL            Larus novaehollandiae
    This bird is generally distributed throughout Australia especially along the coastal areas.  It can also be found in New Caledonia and New Zealand. The bird is abundant the year round in such areas as harbours, estuaries and coastal rivers.  At certain times it can be found on inland waterways where it may congregate in large numbers.  Its natural food consists of small fish and other marine life but it will feed on scraps and garbage.  For this reason it can assume pest proportions where garbage tips are located adjacent to aerodromes. The presence of large flocks of gulls can prove a hazard to aircraft and crashes have resulted.  For this reason, civil aviation authorities often take stringent measures in an effort to discourage birds from the locality.


    The breeding season extends from May to February during which time the birds will nest in a depression in the ground lined with grass or seaweed.  From two to five eggs are laid.  These vary considerably in colour with a common colour pattern being pale green or brown with umber or dark olive-brown blotches.


    The bird itself is 300 to 350 mm in size white in colour, with some grey on the wings and red legs and beak.


    WELCOME SWALLOW            Hirundo neoxena

    The welcome swallow is a well-known bird throughout the southern regions of Australia including Tasmania.  Here it may be seen in both rural and urban areas, flying low to catch its staple food of insects or roosting on perches such as telegraph wires.  It is mostly a migratory species but, in certain areas, birds may remain the whole year.

    Under certain conditions it may become a pest by making its mud and grass nest inside buildings, under eaves or on verandah posts.  The birds' droppings may deface walls and goods and be of considerable economic consequence.  Birds may return year after year to the same site to raise subsequent broods during the breeding season of August to December or occasionally, during the autumn months. 

    SULPHUR-CRESTED COCKATOO (Cacatua galerita) and

    GALAH (Cacatua roseicapilla)

    These two well known members of the Australian parrot family are notorious among farmers for their attacks upon cereal crops, especially wheat and oats, pasture grasses and oilseeds such as sunflower and safflower. on the credit side, they are kept by many Australian families as interesting family pets and they may eat large quantities of the seeds of many weeds.

    Originally quite restricted in their distribution, galahs especially have taken advantage of the increased amount of arable land to expand their range to most parts of Australia and are now not an uncommon sight in any part of the country.


    The birds' habit of invading oilseed-growing areas has led to certain localities being abandoned by farmers altogether.  In the state of N.S.W., it is estimated that approximately 20% of the total grain crop is destroyed each year by cockatoos.

    On the domestic scene, sulphur-crested cockatoos may become pests due to their practice of chewing red cedar window and doorframes or by destroying small shrubs.  They are most likely to do this when a local food source is no longer available.  In such circumstances, these birds are very difficult to deter.

    permitted chemical controls

    The differences in structures, species and problems that are encountered both between rural and urban areas means that is a great need for a structured methodology to approaching the problem of pest bird management. Some forms of control that may be used are as follows:

    1. Shooting
    2. Trapping
    3. Baiting
    4. Excluding (IPM)

    IPM non-chemical methods
    There are many exclusion products available on today’s market to help solve bird management problems. The most commonly used of these are bird spikes, stealth netting, bird coil, bird strand, and many more. In recent times a new product has been launched called Bird – Shock – Flex – Track. The track comes in 15.24m rolls in four different colours and is a very successful product.

    bird shooting
    This means of control should mainly be used for a single rogue bird or two, as killing the bird should always be the last resort for a pest controller. Attempting to solve an urban bird problem by killing the birds is likely to lead to many more problems. YOU MUST KNOW WHAT THE LAW IS IN YOUR STATE, before attempting to carryout control work, to prevent yourself from being prosecuted and appearing unprofessional.

    bird capture
    Trapping, as a means of control is widespread. This method involves encouraging live birds into a trap that is placed in their roosting or feeding area and that is either baited with a live bird or, more commonly, with grain. Once a certain number of birds have been trapped, they are removed and killed. The traps will then be re-set. Although there is a legal requirement for the contractor setting traps to inspect their traps every 24 hours, not all contractors comply with this legislation and the trapped birds are sometimes left to starve or die of exposure. It should be noted that if both parents of a breeding pair of birds are lured into a trap, their young in the nest will starve to death – as pigeons breed all-year round there is no ‘safe’ time to carry out culling operations. This means that decaying carcasses are left to decompose and become maggot infested causing far greater health and safety problems for the client than the original pair of pigeons had caused by their fouling.

    chemical controls
    Chemical control for birds can and is a very touchy subject, even if the bird in question is a pest species, the general public take great concern when they see birds in distress or dying. Some chemicals that are currently registered for the control of certain birds are as follows:
    Alphachlorose and P

    Narcotic Bait (often mistakenly described as poison):
    Birds are fed untreated grain in a secluded area for approximately 7 days and on the 8th day the untreated grain is substituted with treated grain. The grain is treated with a narcotic substance, the purpose being to induce stupor in the bird so that it is easily caught and killed. The reality of
    these operations is that few birds are actually caught by contractors and a majority of the birds that have taken the bait fly away to die of starvation, dehydration or hypothermia. Many birds are found by members of the public flopping about on the roads and pavements in a distressed state and many are also taken by predators – many predators (cats, birds of prey etc) will also die having eaten the narcotised pigeon. Perth City Authority, in Australia, carried out a narcotising operation in 1999 that went disastrously wrong. The contractor concerned treated grain with the wrong dose of the narcotic and stupefied birds were seen crashing into cars and
    buses, flying into shop windows and causing mayhem in Perth City Centre. There was a public outcry as a result. Many town and city councils in the Australia still regularly use this method of pigeon control, but even this draconian measure still fails to resolve pigeon-related problems. The dangers inherent in the use of narcotics are considerable; to say nothing of the fact that many non-target species (i.e. birds of prey) also take the bait and die a long and agonising death.

    other pest control strategies

    Many people do not regard birds as pests. If you fail to acknowledge this sensitive issue, you could end up with great hostility and adverse publicity, which could seriously damage your reputation.

    Useful website links:



APCA is an independently incorporated association - since 1987