Which Birds Are Actually Considered as Pests? (And Why Are They So Dangerous?)
Although not universally reviled as cockroaches, rats, or mosquitoes, only some bird species are considered true pests. While most birds might be accepted and welcomed by homeowners, there are a few that are considered nuisances and dangers to human safety.
Not only do these kinds of birds carry diseases—some dangerous enough to be transmitted to humans—but they can also some serious damage to residential and commercial property.
The problem is that a number of these bird species are not actually native to North America. What this means is these birds—specifically, pigeons, house sparrows, and starlings—have no natural predators and therefore, have nothing to keep their population growth in check.
One bird by itself isn’t much of a problem, but entire populations can have adverse and significant effects on both human health and safety.
First of all, large populations of birds mean they can produce large amounts of bird droppings—droppings that can cause damage and deterioration to property, vehicles, and other structures.
Another reason why unchecked populations of birds can be dangerous: their nests. Birds commonly build their nests within pipes, chimneys, or areas near power connections. This is not only a serious fire hazard but also a cause of clogged pipes and electrical outages.
Lastly, bird activity in the area can also attract secondary pests such as gnats, mealybugs, mites, and slugs, among others.
Which Bird Species Are Considered Pests?
It’s important to note that not all birds are categorized as pests. However, the following birds are typically considered nuisance animals (some more than others) by many homeowners, and can, therefore, be considered pests.
- European Starlings
- House Sparrows
- Waterfowl (Ducks and Geese)
Of all the bird species we mentioned, crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are probably the least liked. For starters, crows tend to be aggressive, displacing “preferred” birds such as bluebirds, hummingbirds, and robins.
Crows eat just about anything and can resort from begging for food to foraging around in roadkill and garbage, potentially carrying even more filth and disease.
Crows, in particular, can also be very messy with their droppings. Large gatherings of crows (which, incidentally, is known as a murder of crows) can be terribly loud and annoying, with repeated cacophonous cawing loudest just before the dawn.
Arguably (and problematically) the most successful bird on the continent, the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) was first introduced in Central Park, New York around 1890. By the late 1940s, these birds can be found all over the American continent. Today, their population is estimated to exceed 200 million.
European starlings can get rather noisy, as they vocalize not only frequently, but at high pitches. When starlings choose a roosting site, nearby residents can’t miss the noise and the large amounts of corrosive droppings.
Another problem with these birds: European starlings travel far and travel often. This means they are likely to pick up parasites and diseases along the way, including a host of fungal diseases and protozoan diseases, as well as toxoplasmosis and blastomycosis.
Smart little creatures (but probably not as smart as crows), feral pigeons (Columba livia domestica) are mostly problematic not just because of the large amount of excrement that they produce, but also due to the fact that they can carry an odd assortment of parasites, fungus, and other infectious diseases.
Pigeon droppings can release dangerous spores as well as damage roofing, ventilation systems, and other structural aspects of buildings and vehicles. Left unchecked, vast populations of feral pigeons can bring about secondary pest problems, such as ticks and other mites (that reside within pigeon’s feathers).
The common house sparrow (Passer domesticus) was intentionally (or accidentally) introduced to Australia, Africa, and the Americas, make it the most widely distributed wild bird.
In the United States, house sparrows were introduced in 1851, when a group of 100 birds from England was released in Brooklyn, New York.
Just like pigeons, the common house sparrow is highly social and prolific. They too carry and spread diseases as well as potentially usher in a host of secondary pest problems.
What makes house sparrows so dangerous is their size. They can squeeze their way through small gaps and openings in homes and buildings and nest where they can nest relatively unnoticed and undisturbed. The problem is that their nests are likely to be found near sources of warmth, such as breaker boxes and electrical equipment, and can, therefore, be a fire hazard.
Waterfowl (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Ducks, geese, and swan (of the family Anatidae) are generally accepted by most homeowners, and the population is kept in check by hunting and natural predators.
However, they can become a problem when there are no such predators and are left on their own. In fact, a pair can easily become 50 to 100 birds within five to seven years. Unchecked flocks of these sizes can easily damage lawns, foul ponds and golf courses, and even wipe out plots of crops, much to the dismay of gardeners and farmers.
Woodpeckers (Melanerpes spp.), as well as other birds from the family Picidae (such as sapsuckers and flickers), are not usually a problem as they make their homes on the fringes of, or within, wooded or forested areas.
The problem is when woodpeckers start venturing into human homes in search of food or a suitable location for nesting. Some may find their incessant pecking to be disturbing, but far more significantly, woodpeckers can cause structural damage along the sides of homes, on eaves, wooden sidings, or trim boards.
Note that of the 17 species of woodpeckers found in California, two are listed as endangered species.
What Sort of Diseases Can Be Transmitted By Birds?
An unfortunate side-effect of droppings from nuisance birds is that the inhalation of these droppings can cause diseases in humans, specifically histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis. The birds themselves can also carry and transmit a number of diseases, including encephalitis, Salmonella, and toxoplasmosis.
- Candidiasis is a yeast or fungus infection (also called thrush) that is spread by pigeons. The disease presents itself as white patches that affect the skin, the mouth, the respiratory system, the intestines, and the urogenital tract, often accompanied by itching and soreness.
- Cryptococcosis is a disease that typically manifests in people with compromised immune systems (such as those who might be HIV-positive). The disease is caused by yeast found in the intestinal tract of pigeons and starlings, starting out as a pulmonary disease then progressing further to affect the central nervous system.
- E.coli, particularly the 0157:H7 strain is passed on to humans when birds peck on infected cow manure, then droppings from the bird land in our food or water supply.
- Histoplasmosis is a respiratory infection caused after breathing in microscopic fungal spores, which may have been growing in soil that contains large amounts of bird droppings. Those who do get sick will probably experience a fever, cough, and fatigue; can be fatal to those with compromised immune systems.
- Salmonellosis manifests as “food poisoning” and can be traced to bacteria and dust from bird droppings sucked through ventilators and air conditioners, contaminating food and cooking surfaces in restaurants, homes and food processing plants. Most common symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting.
- Saint Louis encephalitis (SLE) is a viral disease spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito which have fed on infected house sparrow, pigeons and house finches carrying the Group B virus. Most people infected with SLE virus have no apparent illness, but initial symptoms of those who fall ill include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness.
Note that, in addition to the diseases that they carry, nuisance birds are also notorious carriers of ectoparasites which can work their way and infest humans and pets.
Some of these parasites include bed bugs (Cimex lectularius), chicken mites (Dermanyssus gallinae), yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor), and the West Nile Virus, which may be transmitted to humans via the bite of a mosquito who has bitten an infected bird.
Why Do I Have an Infestation of Nuisance Birds at Home?
Just like any other pest that comes to invade our homes, birds too will find something attractive about your domicile.
Usually it’s proximity to food (which can be grains and seeds, our discarded food, or a teeming insect population. Outdoor cafes/restaurants, parks, and picnic spots are also great places for birds to forage and find food, as we commonly see them diligently collecting our leftovers and garbage.
Homes (or areas relatively close to our homes) can also be great potential nesting sites, especially if these birds can go about their business relatively undisturbed or unnoticed. Abandoned areas of farms or buildings can be obvious choices, but birds can also start building nests in and around ventilation systems, attics, louvers, and crevices. Window-mounted air conditioners are favorite nest locations, in particular.
How Can I Prevent Having an Infestation of Birds at Home?
When you think you already have an infestation of birds in your home (or near your home), the first thing you should do is to figure out what sort of bird problem you’re having. Next, you need to figure out what might be attracting them to begin with.
(You can use Google Lens if you can take a photo using your smart phone.)
Your goal is to either: remove the item that might be attracting the birds (e.g. plants, feed/grain, garbage/food leftovers, an abundance of other insects, etc.) or to build a suitable barrier between the birds and the object of its attention.
Usually, it’s a case of habitual, unattended trash. Regular and prompt trash cleanup measures using bird-proof bins goes a long way towards discouraging unwanted bird activity in and around homes, commercial establishments, as well as public areas.
In the case of house sparrows, as they’ll always find your home as a location for a suitable nest, you’ll want to install mesh or wire covers over vents, check for gaps (particularly around your roof, eaves, louvers, and air conditioning) where they can find their way inside.
If for some reason you’ve found that birds have already moved in, check to see what kind of birds are nesting. Wait until there are no young present, then remove the nesting material and block openings with mesh, netting, or hardware cloth.
If young birds are present in the nest, you’ll have to leave them there until they are at least able to fly. Remember, depending on the local laws and ordinances, birds other than starlings and house sparrows might be protected by law, and therefore, removing their nests or eggs might be illegal.
Lastly, you might want to consider using anti-perching systems. Stainless steel spikes might work well for pigeons or other larger birds, and is suitable for use on ledges, signs, fencing, lights, chimneys, and other structures around your home.
For buildings (with lots of architectural detail), stainless steel coil might be more appropriate to use as these are more flexible and adaptable to just about any shape. Netting systems can also be used across open spaces or along the sides of buildings to deny birds access to your property.
Rocklin Pest Control: Pest Control Experts
If you think you need help in removing or relocating nuisance birds in and around your property, give the good people of Rocklin Pest Control a call.
While they specialize in more common pests such as termites, rats, and roaches, they can also just as easily help you with your bird problems.
Servicing the neighborhoods of South Placer County, Sacramento County, as well as other nearby communities for over 14 years, Rocklin Pest Control brings to the table 30 years of experience and expertise.
Consultations are always free, so get in touch with our team via our website, or call us during office hours at (916) 250-0008.