Birds and bats
There are around fourteen species of bat found in the United Kingdom, all of which are small in size. The lifespan of a bat can be up to thirty years. The most common to the United Kingdom is the Pipistrelle, weighing a tiny five grams. The largest native species is the noctule but this is still smaller than the palm of your hand.
Due to the dramatic fall in their numbers, bats are protected by law. Six types are classed as ‘endangered’ and a further six as ‘vulnerable’.
Bats are brown in colour and can be identified by their wings, they have a soft membrane of skin stretched over their arms and legs and their bodies are covered with a downy fur.
Bats reside in many places, including caves, mines and churches. During the spring and summer months, stray bats or colonies can sometimes be found in and around people’s homes.
All British bats feed on insects caught in flight or picked off water, the ground or foliage, including moths, beetle gnats and mosquitoes.
Bats mate after the age of two years and produce a single offspring but not always every year. Bats are not blind but their most highly developed sense is that of hearing and by emitting high frequency sound they use a form of sonar to identify fine detail even in complete darkness so enabling the avoidance of obstacles.
Bats need a variety of roost sites for use at different times of year, They are particularly vulnerable where they concentrate for hibernation in winter and where females gather in maternity colonies in summer. The principle sites are underground habitats, such as caves, tunnels, buildings and trees.
Bats are locally harmless creatures and are not considered to be a pest. Their presence does not constitute a health risk. Their droppings can become smelly when damp.
Bats breed in late May to early June. Female bats breed a single pup, which feeds on their milk. Young bats are less than an inch in size with greyish fur. The young bat gains independence at six weeks old, hunting insects and no longer needing their mother’s milk.
Males make a special call to attract females during the breeding season, including clicks and buzzing sounds. By November, most bats will have found suitable hibernation roosts for the winter months and will rarely venture out until spring.
Bats do not damage property or buildings and do not gnaw wood, cable or make holes to gain entry, only using existing gaps and holes.
Bats are protected by numerous legislation and principally the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it illegal to to intentionally kill, injure, or handle any bat. It is also an offence to intentionally damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place that a bat uses for protection or shelter or to disturb one whilst occupying such a place.
Professional advice should be sought if you find them occupying your property. If you think you have bats roosting in your home, do not take any action before ringing the UK Bat helpline on: 0845 1300 228, English Nature 01773 455000 or your local Bat Conservation Trust Group or Wildlife Trust for advice.
Stray bats or colonies can sometimes be found during the spring and summer months, in and around people’s homes.
Magpies are scavengers, predators and pest-destroyers and part of the crow family. They are found in a variety of habitats including woodland, farmland, moor land, gardens and in urban areas. Their diet consists of insects, eggs and nestlings of other birds.
Magpies can be killed or taken by authorised persons, using certain methods, as long as it is to:
- Prevent serious damage to crops and/or livestock
- Preserving public health and/or public safety
- Improve conservation of wild birds
Licences are issued by DEFRA under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. An authorised person is classed as a landowner or occupier, or someone acting upon their permission. It is not acceptable to kill birds for sport.
Acceptable control methods include:
- Use of wire cage traps with spring loaded doors, which are designed to keep the bird alive. Any magpie or crow caught will have to be humanely destroyed. Any other species must be released
- May be shot, more suitable in rural areas
- It is legal to destroy magpie nests, but old nests can be used by protected species so extreme care must be taken
Pigeons will feed on anything including seeds, grain and crops. Pigeons, in large numbers, cause problems to buildings or monuments from the acid in the faeces which can erode brick or soft stone. Nest material can block drains and guttering. Accidents can occur from faeces or dropped food which can cause slip hazards
Pigeons can drive away other smaller birds, ultimately reducing their populations. There are many ways in which to feed smaller birds such as seed feeders and fat balls. By feeding pigeons, this can encourage other pests such as rats and mice as they also feed on what is left out for the birds.
There are many ways in which to repel pigeons; scarecrows, anti-roosting spike strips, netting under roofs, which can be found in most hardware stores, or to look for a pest contractor. Pigeon droppings, or faeces, present more of a problem, especially when it is dry. it can enter through your mouth, nose, eyes and through cuts and scratches.
Wear your PPE (personal protective equipment) such as a dust mask or respirator, eye protection and protective overalls including gloves, boots and a hard hat (if you are cleaning above ground level).
Removing the faeces
- Firstly soak the faeces in water, so it’s no longer a dust / powder
- Scrape heavy crusts with a hard bristled brush to remove, if stubborn leave to soak
- Jet washers are not ideal as they only disperse the faeces, rather than dissolving it
- You may need to use a detergent to fully dissolve the material (Don't not use any form of bleach, as it may react with the bird faeces forming toxic gases).
Afterwards, completely wash any equipment used, thoroughly wash yourself and any clothing you used.
A Starling is smaller than a blackbird, with a short tail, pointed head and triangular wings. They spend a lot of the year in flocks, which create a nuisance when roosting, and are one of the commonest of garden birds.
Starlings are very aggressive and will drive native birds out of their territory. Similar to pigeons; the build up of faeces can lead to structural damage, corrosion of stone, metal and other masonry; nest materials can cause water damage from blocked guttering and the faeces also carries disease. Starlings are nesting birds, building them in trees, church spires and also using other birds’ nests.
Remove spilt food or rubbish to reduce the attractiveness of an area, as well, if it is possible, to remove old nests to limit where they can roost. Pruning trees can also limit their nesting sites.
There are a wide variety of solutions available for handling a starling infestation. The best solution for starling problems is complete exclusion and some of the ways are listed below:
- The use of spikes, wires and gels to limit where Starlings can roost on buildings
- The use of nets, for where the above are not practical
- Or use a technique such as Bird Aversion Fogging which is used when netting or spikes cannot be used
These devices can be purchased from a DIY store, or consult a pest contractor.