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Pigeon Control Advisory Service
PiCAS International

Hercules House
4 George Street
PO12 4SY

Email: enquiries@picasuk.com

Skype: picas.uk

PiCAS is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 05206567 VAT No: 858 1204 26

Member of The Federation of Small Businesses

Skype PiCAS UK

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Anti-Perching Devices   Anti-Roosting Spikes   Post and Wire Systems   Nylon Bird Netting   Sonic / Ultrasonic Devices   Repellent Gels   Electric Shock Systems   Birds of Prey   Contraceptive Pill   Egg-Oiling

Anti-perching devices

Deterrents, anti-perching devices and bird exclusion products are used extensively to deter pigeons and other birds from roosting and perching on specific areas of buildings. Some of these products have a wider application such as the protection of agricultural land and even ponds or lakes, but for the purpose of this page we will concentrate on products that are designed to be used to protect buildings and for the control of urban birds. We will concentrate on those products that are most likely to be recommended and used on the average property. PiCAS will, however, provide any client with an independent and detailed analysis of any bird control product and how that product performs in relation to other similar products.

Deterrents such as sonic devices are products that act to scare or deter a bird from its roosting or perching place. Anti-roosting products, such as anti-roosting spikes, are designed to physically prevent a bird from landing on ledges, guttering and other architectural features. Bird exclusion products like nylon bird netting are usually installed to physically prevent a bird from gaining access to an area rather than a specific perch, but many pest control contractors miss-sell this product to protect individual perching areas. Deterrents and anti-roosting products have the potential to be 100% effective providing that the correct product is chosen and installed as per manufacturer’s recommendations. Bird exclusion products can be equally effective if they are installed correctly and in the right areas, but in many cases products like nylon bird netting degrade rapidly and quickly become ineffective due to poor installation. Degraded nylon bird netting also has the potential to entrap wild birds, potentially resulting in prosecution for the property owner.

All bird control products and services are expensive and all have problems associated with their use and installation, therefore it is critically important to seek independent and expert advice prior to engaging a contractor to install bird control products or provide any type of conventional bird control service. Pest control contractors are product installers, they are not bird control experts, and advice should never be taken from a company that has a vested interest in selling a product or an installation service. The average property owner would not even consider having a property survey undertaken by the seller of the property they were interested in buying, but property owners in the UK spend tens of millions of pounds every year on products and services recommended and provided by their pest control contractor without ever seeking independent advice.

One of the biggest disadvantages associated with bird control products and services is that they fail to deal with the source of the problem. Most products simply move the problem from A to B. If birds are excluded from a property that is comprehensively protected with deterrents or anti-roosting products they will simply move to an adjacent property causing inevitable problems. The other major problem for property owners is that most bird control products do nothing to enhance the aesthetic quality of their building. As a result most property owners will choose a product such as nylon bird netting or the post and wire system purely on the grounds of aesthetics, yet the cost of protecting a property using these products can be astronomical. Not only this but these products degrade rapidly and require replacement long before much more effective products like the anti-roosting spike. Having said this, the anti-roosting spike is far from attractive and can look ugly if installed on the fascia of a building, but the product is highly effective.

PiCAS will guide the client through the complex and often demanding process of choosing the right bird control product to suit their needs and their budget. PiCAS is an independent consultancy service with no links or ties to products or service providers thereby ensuring the client of bias-free advice at all times. All PiCAS consultants are bird control experts with an in-depth knowledge of the bird control marketplace. PiCAS will discuss the merits of each and every product with the client and their effectiveness and cost relative to each other, ensuring that the client is provided with the optimum system and at the right price.

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Anti-roosting Spikes

Also known as:
Pigeon spikes, needle spikes, bird spikes, plastic spikes, steel spikes, gull spikes, bird point, pigeon point, polycarbonate spikes, point system, stainless steel spikes, sparrow spikes, window spikes, spike strips, pipe spikes

The anti-roosting spike is the most effective stand-alone anti-roosting product on the market.  The anti-roosting spike is simple to install and does not require the services of a specialist contractor to install the product.  A vast majority of property owners can install this product in-house and acting on the advice from PiCAS. The anti-roosting spike is 100% effective as an anti-perching device if installed as per manufacturer’s recommendations and has an extremely long lifespan.  The anti-roosting spike is one of the most cost-effective products on the market, certainly relative to other bird control products, and is completely reversible. The anti-roosting spike is one of the few bird control products where guarantees in excess of 10 years are provided by some manufacturers.

Anti-roosting spikes are most commonly installed by using silicone gel, a non-invasive adhesive that is quick and easy to use. Silicone gel will not mark or damage the surface upon which it is installed. Anti-roosting spikes that are installed using silicone gel can be removed easily and quickly should access to the area be required for the purposes of essential maintenance and then the product can be re-installed once works have been completed.

As with any bird control product, expert advice should always be sought prior to purchasing the product. Anti-roosting spikes vary in quality and price dramatically with cheap and poor quality Far Eastern imports now flooding the UK market. Choosing the right manufacturer and choosing the right spike product (and there are many types and specifications of anti-roosting spike) will determine the effectiveness of the installation and the resultant level of protection.

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Post and Wire Systems

Also known as:
Spring wire systems, pigeon wire, bird wire, gull wire, line and wire

This anti-perching device is commonly recommended to property owners due to its aesthetic qualities rather than its effectiveness. Also because it is a highly profitable product to sell and install.  The product consists of a series of vertical steel posts installed onto (or into) a flat surface and spanned by thin steel wires provided at a height of approximately 3 to 4 inches above the surface to be protected. The steel wire is joined to the posts by small steel springs.  When a bird attempts to land on the protected surface its feet first touch the wires, which move due to the fact that the wire is attached to the vertical posts by springs, making the bird feel unsafe and resulting in the bird aborting its landing.

The post and wire system is one of the most expensive and poorly performing products on the pest control marketplace. Many pest control contractors, however, recommend the product purely due to its profitability. Although the product is virtually invisible and therefore may appear attractive to the property owner, it is not at all robust and the average life span of the product is short, in some cases just weeks.  The product is often badly installed causing the vertical posts to cave in and render the product totally ineffective.  The steel wires also continually snap or become disconnected from the posts, again, rendering the product ineffective. It is a common sight to see pigeons and other birds walking between the rows of wires or even nesting in between them. It is also a common sight to see broken steel wires hanging from degraded systems installed on town and city centre buildings.

The vertical posts of the system can be glued to the surface to be protected, but the product is virtually useless due to the small contact surface of the post base. Irrespective of what adhesive is chosen, the vertical posts will cave in rendering the system totally ineffective.  Where the posts are drilled and cemented into the surface to be protected the lifespan of the product is increased, but this method of installation can cause major problems for the property owner.  If the hole that is drilled for the post is not completely backfilled with cement, rainwater will seep into the hole and when the water freezes in sub-zero temperatures it will expand and crack the stonework into which it has been installed; this can have disastrous consequences for the property owner. One large Victorian building, owned by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, suffered large pieces of masonry falling onto busy pavement areas below as a result of poor installation of an extensive post and wire system recommended and installed by a pest control contractor.

If the product is installed on the leading edge of a ledge, because birds are perching and soiling the fascia of a building, it is highly likely that the area behind the spring wires will be much more attractive to pigeons for the purpose of nesting. This is because the steel wires will stop both nests and contents from falling to the ground below.  Therefore, in an effort to stop this happening, the system needs to cover the whole of the ledge rather than just the leading edge – even then there is no guarantee that pigeons will not simply land in between the wires.  Once it is understood that the whole ledge needs to be protected the price of the installation increases dramatically and the product becomes prohibitive on grounds of cost alone.  PiCAS never recommends this product – it is ineffective, it has the potential to cause extensive damage to the fabric of buildings upon which it is installed and it is extremely expensive relative to other, far more effective anti-perching products.

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Nylon Bird Netting

Also known as:
Pigeon net, gull netting, polyethylene netting, gull netting, bird mesh, netting systems, plastic netting, barrier netting

Nylon bird netting is one of the most expensive and one of the poorest performing bird control products on the marketplace. As with post and wire systems, nylon bird netting is commonly recommended to clients by pest control contractors due to its profitability. The lifespan of the product is extremely limited and almost completely dependent on the quality of installation and whether the netting is maintained throughout its lifetime. Clients are rarely told that their netting installation should be regularly maintained and re-tensioned to stop the product stretching and becoming ineffective. Nylon bird netting expands and contracts with extremes of heat and cold and therefore quickly becomes baggy if it is not re-tensioned regularly. The nylon netting is attached to the suspension system with fine clips called hog rings which are in turn attached to a steel retaining wire which suspends the whole netting installation. As the netting becomes stretched it starts to move in the wind and as a result hog rings become detached from the retaining wire leaving a gap through which birds can re-enter the protected area. Once one or two hog rings give way the whole netting installation is prone to more and more movement. The more movement in the netting, the more pressure on the hog rings. Eventually the whole system will collapse and this is why it is a common sight to see large spans of degraded nylon bird netting flapping in the wind on town and city centre buildings.

There are numerous problems associated with the use of nylon bird netting, not least the cost of installing the system and frequency at which it will need to be maintained and replaced. Netting installations usually come with a 5 year guarantee and a similar lifespan, yet larger installations can cost well in excess of £100,000 and therefore the client will need to broker in a similar budget for a replacement every 5 years.

The suspension system used to install nylon bird netting is highly invasive to the fabric of the building concerned requiring numerous holes to be drilled into masonry in order to install the bolts which suspend the retaining wire. In the case of listed buildings the damage to the fabric of the building will be considerable and prior to considering nylon bird netting the listed buildings officer at the local council offices should be consulted. Penalties for inflicting damage to a grade 1 listed building can be severe. It is unlikely that applications to net a grade 1 listed building will receive the necessary permissions.

When netting does become compromised as a result of a small tear for example, or when hog rings come away from the retaining wire, pigeons and other birds will quickly enter the netted area and then become trapped.  This can, and normally does cause massive problems for the property owner concerned.  Trapped birds are virtually impossible to tempt out of a netted area and staff in commercial buildings and members of the public alike become distressed when seeing a bird trapped with no access to food and water.  The RSPCA is then called in, as is the media in many cases, and the property owner is then on the receiving end of extremely bad publicity to say nothing of the fact that the net will almost certainly have to be removed and replaced at huge cost.  PiCAS receives more calls about birds becoming trapped in and behind netting installations than virtually any other issue and yet in most cases nylon bird netting was clearly not the most appropriate, nor the most cost-effective product available.  The installation of nylon bird netting is a highly profitable service for the contractor but rarely in the best interests of the client.

When birds do become trapped behind poorly installed or degraded nylon bird netting installations the property owner must be aware that the welfare of those birds then becomes his or her responsibility. If the trapped birds suffer or die as a result of being trapped a prosecution may be brought for causing unnecessary suffering courtesy of the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. Similarly, if bird’s nests are enclosed by netting installations, denying the parent access to its young, a prosecution can be brought under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Property owners should be aware that it is them, not their pest control contractor that will be prosecuted if a prosecution is brought on the grounds of cruelty or causing unnecessary suffering. Please see The Law page for further information about the law and how it relates to bird control.

Another issue that is rarely considered by the client prior to installing nylon bird netting, particularly box netting, is access to the netted area for the purpose of essential maintenance.  When netting an extensive area few property owners consider how they will be able to access infrastructure behind the netting once installed. In most cases a maintenance contractor will simply cut through netting installations in order to gain access to areas behind it, rendering the entire installation ineffective. Netting should never be repaired due to the fact that the integrity of the system is based on tension – if netting is repaired a weak point is created that will quickly fail and allow birds to gain access. Netting installations must be replaced when damaged, at significant cost to the property owner.  It is possible to install a zip into a nylon bird net to allow for access for essential maintenance, but zips break easily, particularly at the hands of contractors, and this allows birds to re-enter the netted area.  Furthermore, contractors commonly fail to close the zips at the end of a job and the area is then immediately re-occupied by birds.

There are circumstances where netting can be an effective product but expert, and ideally independent advice, should always be sought before even considering purchasing the product.  The cost of installation is not the only consideration.  Because nylon bird netting expands and contracts with extremes of heat and cold and very quickly loses its tension, any property owner considering this product must broker in bi-annual maintenance costs to maintain the tension in the netting.  In areas where net has been provided at height the cost of access for the purposes of maintenance can be greater than the cost of the product itself and therefore maintenance costs can often be similar to the initial cost of installation.

In a vast majority of cases there are alternative and far more effective products available than nylon bird netting.  Most of the alternatives are non-invasive to install, will cost significantly less to purchase and do not require regular maintenance.  PiCAS will provide completely independent advice to property owners who are considering nylon bird netting as an option. When it is understood that netting installations can cost in excess of £100,000 to protect larger properties, and may need to be replaced as frequently as every 5 years, independent and impartial advice is critically important.

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Sonic, Bio-Acoustic and Ultrasonic Bird Scarers

Also known as:
Sonic scarer, silent bird scarer, ultrasound bird scarer, electronic bird scarer, sonic deterrents, bird strobe, sonic distress system, distress call systems, bio scarer, bird wailer, ultrasound deterrents

There are an increasing number of sonic, bio-acoustic and ultrasonic devices being offered to those experiencing problems with wild birds, some of which also include visual deterrents such as flashing lights. A sonic system will produce sound or noise (up to 120DB) that can be heard by the human ear such as a siren or a loud bang. An ultrasonic system produces sound in the range of 15-25 KHz which is normally outside the range of the human ear, but can be heard by some bird species. A bio-acoustic system uses up to 3 different methods of scaring:

• Predator calls which mimic the sound of a predatory bird such as a hawk or falcon
• Alarm calls which mimic the sound of the target species when it is being attacked
   or in danger
• Distress calls which are made by the target species when it is under attack from a
   predator or when it is pain

Most of the systems involving the use of sonic noise are multi-scaring units which include sonic, ultrasonic, bio-acoustic and visual deterrents such as strobe lights. Systems using only sonic noise alone are not commonly available due to the fact that the multi-scaring units are relatively inexpensive. Ultrasonic and bio-acoustic systems are more commonly available in a stand-alone format.

At best, these systems should only ever be considered as part of an overall bird control system as they rarely if ever have any effect as a stand-alone control. Some systems may appear relatively inexpensive when considered against similar anti-perching systems but there is a reason for this – most noise-based systems have little if any effect on the target species. The reason for this is habituation – most pest species of birds are highly intelligent and will quickly habituate to sonic noise, ultrasound and bio-acoustic scaring techniques. For a few days the system may have some effect but thereafter the birds become used to the interference and ignore it. None of these systems will have any effect on breeding birds that have eggs or young in a nest - they cannot be used within the breeding period. In most cases so-called problem birds such as gulls cause the most significant problems during the breeding period and therefore a system of this nature would be worthless.

These systems are now being commonly marketed for the purpose of pigeon control and yet no sonic, ultrasound or bio-acoustic system will have any effect whatsoever on pigeons. Manufacturers will often make extraordinary claims about the effectiveness of their product when used to control pigeon populations but these systems are completely worthless when used for this purpose. Most pigeon specific devices are also very expensive, in some cases costing over £600.00 + VAT for one hand-held unit.

One PiCAS International client based in India had been experiencing entrenched problems with over 2,000 pigeons on a 5 star luxury hotel and desperately needed a non-lethal but effective pigeon control system. Prior to contacting PiCAS International the hotelier approached a reputable English manufacturer of bio-acoustic systems and was sold two hand-held bio-acoustic pigeon scarers at a cost of over £1,400.00 - the scarers were totally ineffective. As a result the hotelier resorted to employing a man for 8 hours a day to run around the site waving a red flag and this was deemed to be considerably more effective (and cheaper) than the bio-acoustic devices. This is the reality of these systems when used for the purpose of pigeon control.

Pigeons are one of the few birds that have no natural distress call and therefore bio-acoustic systems cannot be effective for the control of pigeons. PiCAS will never recommend bio-acoustic, sonic or ultrasound systems for the control of pigeons.

For the control of some species of wild bird these systems can be relatively effective but as with all bird control products it is important to take independent and professional advice before choosing a system. Advice should never be taken from a company that sells products or installation services.

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Repellent Gels

Also known as:
Pigeon gel, bird gel, hotfoot, birdproof gel, bird glue

PiCAS will never recommend these products.  They have a very short lifespan and can cause very considerable damage to the surface upon which they are provided. They are also usually completely ineffective as an anti-perching device.  The longest guarantee available for any gel product on the market is 12 months and some manufacturers only offer a 3 month guarantee. In some cases gels will only remain effective for a matter of hours following installation, particularly if the product has been installed in a dusty or sooty environment, under a railway bridge for example. The dust or soot coats the product when it is drying rendering the product completely ineffective.

Gels can also cause very considerable damage to the surface upon which they are installed. If gel is applied to a soft porous surface such as sandstone the gel will quickly leach into the stone. The result is that the gel will leave ugly black marks on the surface of the stonework when it is removed. In some cases the only way that these marks can only be removed is by sandblasting. Although there is a primer available that will prevent seepage into porous stone, few pest control contractors use it.

There is a legal requirement for any pest control contractor or property owner that is applying gel to coat the raw gel with a sealant compound to stop the gel from adhering to any bird that comes into contact with it. Unfortunately many pest control contractors fail to apply the sealant and it is not uncommon for birds to become glued to ledges and other roosting or perching areas. In some cases the gel coats the feathers of a perching or roosting bird with fatal consequences. This happens when the bird tries to preen away the gel from its feet and then preens its wing feathers, thereby coating the primary flight feathers. When the bird attempts to fly it plunges to its death. If this happens the property owner is liable to prosecution for causing unnecessary suffering. If a protected species of bird comes into contact with gel and suffers or dies as a result, the legal implications are far more serious for the property owner concerned. For further information on the law where it relates to bird control please visit The Law page.

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Electric Shock Systems

Also known as:
Pigeon shock systems, bird shock systems, electric shock track, bird track, pigeon track, electric bird systems, electric bird control systems

These products are now becoming more common but are confined, in the main, to the USA where animal protection laws are virtually non-existent. They are also used in some European countries, namely Italy, where animal protection laws appear to be as relaxed as they are in the USA.

Electric shock systems are NOT legal for use in the UK and any property owner installing one will face prosecution.

The product consists of thin steel wires running in parallel and enclosed within a ‘track’ that is attached to the surface to be protected. One wire is live taking power from the power source and the other wire is the earth. A low current of electricity is then passed through the wire in order to give any bird landing or walking on the surface an electric shock.  The system is powered by AC, DC or by solar power.  To all intents and purposes the product seems, at first glance, to tick all the boxes.  It is aesthetically pleasing (as it is low-level) it is cheap to power and manufacturers make fantastic claims about its effectiveness and how inexpensive it is to install.

The PiCAS group has researched this product extensively and has found that contrary to manufacturer’s claims, the product is actually extremely expensive relative to conventional anti-roosting products and requires regular ongoing maintenance to say nothing of the power used to run the system.

The greatest problem inherent with this product is that it induces ‘pain’ in the target species – some manufacturers even admit this is their marketing material.  In Europe and many other countries worldwide this would simply be unacceptable.  Manufacturers also seem unable to confirm that an electrical current suitable for deterring a bird the size of a herring gull for example will not kill a bird the size of a robin or sparrow.  As many species of bird will come into contact with these systems, including protected species of birds, property owners could find themselves facing prosecution for causing unnecessary suffering.  Manufacturers also seem unable to confirm whether the current passed through the wires pose a greater threat to birds in wet conditions - water is well known to be a very effective conductor of electricity.

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Birds of Prey

Also known as:
Falconry, raptor control, bio control, bloodsport, hawking, hawk control, raptor flying

The use of a bird of prey as a deterrent to scare pigeons and other bird species from their roosting/feeding sites is becoming more common.  Those that are experiencing problems with pigeons or other so-called pest species may perceive the use of a bird of prey as a ‘green’ and ‘natural’ method of control; it is neither of these things. Using one species of bird to kill another, particularly when the hawk concerned is not the natural predator of the target species, is clearly not natural. Falconry is a bloodsport where birds of prey are trained to kill other species of birds and animals for the pleasure of the human handler. The use of a bird of prey in a commercial bird control operation is no different; a bird of prey cannot be trained not to kill as it is a natural instinct in the bird to do so. Hawks used for commercial purposes constantly kill the target species and sometimes also kill other species of birds including protected species. In essence the client is paying for a highly controversial and completely ineffective method of control that can be the source of extremely negative publicity should the hawk decide to ‘go feral’.

A number of companies in the UK offer this service where birds of prey are flown in or around a specific building or site on a regular basis and the client is told that the resident pigeon flock will move elsewhere to roost. In most cases the client is also told that an extensive culling operation is necessary in order to reduce pigeon numbers prior to flying a bird of prey. The theory is that once bird numbers reduce to an acceptable level (as a result of culling) the bird of prey will then be flown and will establish a territory, thereby ensuring that the target species does not re-occupy the area. In practice it is the culling operation that reduces pigeon numbers on the site (in the very short-term) and the flying of a bird of prey has no affect whatsoever on the surviving flock. The client, however, sees an initial reduction in pigeon numbers (as a result of the culling operation) and assumes that the £90-£150 per hour that they are being charged for flying the bird of prey is money well spent. However, pigeon numbers on the site then quickly increase above and beyond the pre-cull figure (normally within 4-6 weeks) and the client realises that the bird of prey is having little or no effect. Far from seeing a reduction in pigeon numbers they actually see an increase. This is because culling as a method of pigeon control has been scientifically proven to increase, not reduce, pigeon flock size. The client has simply been sold two very expensive and ineffective services.

Furthermore, most contractors use Harris Hawks as the favoured control option. The Harris Hawk is not the natural predator of the pigeon and is much slower in flight and therefore the bird poses no threat whatsoever. The Harris Hawk will, however, occasionally catch a juvenile, sick or injured pigeon during a control operation (as depicted below in Norwich City centre) but this is rare.  A Harris Hawk will never catch or deter a fit and healthy adult pigeon.

Flying a bird of prey is now being commonly offered as a means of deterring roof-nesting gulls and yet birds of prey are even less effective at scaring gulls than they are at scaring pigeons! Gulls will never be deterred by raptors during the breeding period and at any other time of the year the threat is equally benign. In fact gulls will commonly mob birds of prey and chase them away so once this is understood it becomes clear that no matter which species is used, and to what extent, it is far more likely that the gull represents a greater threat to the raptor than the reverse. Even so, councils like Bath and North East Somerset Council spend huge sums of taxpayer’s money attempting to scare roof-nesting gulls with commercial hawk handlers to no effect at all.

Most of the companies offering this service are simply falconers that are jumping on the pest control bandwagon, hoping to make a quick and easy profit. Many companies make fantastic claims about the effectiveness of their service, but if flying a bird of prey is an effective control in its own right why do companies then need to cull pigeons prior to using a raptor? Because a raptor will be completely ineffective as a stand-alone control.

A good example of how a client can suffer bad publicity as a result of using this method of control is the catastrophic public relations disaster that Nottingham City Council suffered in 1999 when employing a falconer to control pigeons in the city centre. The bird of prey used was seen attacking and ripping pigeons apart in broad daylight in front of children, tourists and residents of the city. The scheme received a massive amount of bad press and had no effect whatsoever on the pigeon population, yet the cost to the taxpayer was £5,000.  Had Nottingham City Council spent £5,000 on a sustainable PiCAS-approved city-wide control system the perceived pigeon problem in the city centre would have reduced dramatically and the system would still be working today, 9 years later.

Probably the most infamous public relations disaster is the continued use of Harris Hawks by the Greater London Authority in Trafalgar Square.  Ken Livingstone introduced this control measure in 2003 in an attempt to bolster failing efforts to reduce Trafalgar Square’s resident pigeon population by starvation.  As with Nottingham, the use of raptors in Trafalgar Square was condemned outright by the public as a complete waste of taxpayer’s money and an appalling spectacle for London’s visiting tourists.  Pigeons were, and still are by all accounts, regularly ripped to pieces by Harris Hawks in front of a stunned audience of visitors to the capital and Londoners who live and work in the city.

The following pictures* illustrate the reality of using a raptor as a method of bird control.  Not the ‘green and natural’ control many think it is!  In this case lunchtime shoppers were horrified and disgusted to see a bird of prey being used as part of a pest control operation in Norwich. The bird of prey was seen tearing a pigeon apart and then eating it alive in the city centre.  The pigeon was apparently alive for 10-15 minutes as the hawk consumed it.  Any property owner contracting this type of service as a method of bird control will inevitably suffer the worst possible publicity should scenes such as these be witnessed by the public and media whilst a hawk is being flown on their behalf and on their property.

Norwich City Council made the following statement:

A spokesman said: “The bird was definitely not a city council initiative and it is not something we would use.  We are looking at non-lethal methods of pigeon control, not ripping them to shreds in front of shoppers.”

These pictures were featured in an article in the Norwich Evening News on the 1st December 2005.

using a raptor as a method of bird control

* © Norwich Evening News

PiCAS would not, under any circumstances, recommend the use of a raptor to control any wild bird species. It is a completely ineffective and an extremely expensive control option where the contractor concerned is the only real beneficiary.

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The Contraceptive Pill

Also known as:
Pigeon pill, bird pill, pigeon contraceptive, bird contraceptive

The contraceptive pill has been widely trialled on wild pigeon flocks throughout Europe but due to the fact that it was impossible to isolate a wild flock in order to measure whether there was a reduction in breeding activity, any data was inevitably flawed. Influx of pigeons from other flocks, where the contraceptive had not been provided, was the main problem. As a result, the contraceptive pill is no longer considered to be a viable option and is not licensed for use in the UK.

A new contraceptive product for birds has recently been introduced onto the pest control marketplace by a pharmaceutical company in the USA. The product has been approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA. The product is available for the control of two of the most commonly controlled pest species – the pigeon and the Canada goose. These products are called OvoControl P (for pigeons) and OvoControl G (for Canada geese).

OvoControl P and OvoControl G are NOT licenced for use in the UK and any person found using these contraceptives will face prosecution.

Although these contraceptives are not licenced for use in the UK their use in the USA, particularly use of the highly controversial OvoControl P, has whipped up a storm of debate. The main concerns over the use of OvoControl P are welfare-related. The active ingredient used in the contraceptive (nicarbazin) is commonly used to control enteritis (notably coccidiosis) in intensively farmed poultry. Coccidiosis is a common avian disease which most fit and healthy wild birds never contract, but when a bird is affected the outcome is normally death. Because of the way that OvoControl P has to be distributed (365 days a year), and because much larger quantities of nicarbazin need to be used in OvoControl P than is used in the treatment of enteritis in commercially farmed birds, pigeons will inevitably lose any natural resistance to fatal diseases such as coccidiosis. In the long term this will result in pigeons becoming highly susceptible to contracting coccidiosis and pigeon flocks will be decimated as a result; urban pigeons will die in their thousands. Because pigeons live in such close proximity to man this represents a very real threat to public health and safety, to say nothing of the welfare implications. Although pigeons do not pass diseases onto humans under normal circumstances, when thousands of birds die of a disease than can affect people as well as pigeons the threat is considerable and cannot be underestimated.

Further welfare concerns have been raised over the potential for OvoControl P to harm the eyes of those birds feeding on the drug. The manufacturer of OvoControl P confirms that the drug will cause "moderate eye irritation" to the human eye, but no mention is made of the effect on the avian eye.  Any substance that causes moderate eye irritation in the human eye must have the same effect on the avian eye.  Pigeons feed ‘en masse’ and therefore there is a strong probability that the contraceptive bait will come into contact with the eyes of feeding birds. Until issues such as this are resolved and until guarantees are provided by the manufacturer that the drug is safe for pigeons as well as people, support for the drug will inevitably be limited.

The predecessor of OvoControl P, a drug called Ornitrol, was removed from the market in the early 1990’s as a result of the fact that the drug was found to cause muscle tremors in pigeons when used for long periods.  Based on the experiences of Ornitrol it is quite clear that any drug recommended for long term use with pigeons must be tested rigorously for extended periods.  The lack of information relating to humane trials of the drug on the Innolytics website suggests that the drug has not been trialled in the long term. Scientists in Italy, where trials were initially undertaken, have already contacted PiCAS with concerns over the use of this drug.

Incredibly, animal welfare groups in the USA such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) have not only failed to understand the threat posed by this dangerous drug but, certainly in the case of HSUS, are actively promoting the drug. In both cases these organisations employ biologists who could and should have recognised the dangers posed to wild bird populations by the long term use of these contraceptives, but clearly the welfare of pigeons is not taken as seriously as the welfare of other wild birds.

The PiCAS Group is actively opposing this new oral contraceptive drug and the main reason for this stance is that PiCAS does not feel that it is appropriate to feed pharmaceuticals to wild birds when there is a perfectly acceptable and risk-free alternative in the form of PiCAS’s own breeding control programme.

Over and above the welfare implications of using OvoControl P there are many reasons why the PiCAS Group would never recommend the contraceptive. The main disadvantage of this new oral contraceptive is the raft of operational restrictions imposed on the use of OvoControl P by the manufacturer:

• The drug cannot be used in the rain
• The drug cannot be used within 20 feet of any body of water
• The drug must be distributed 365 days a year including weekends and
   public holidays
• The drug must be distributed early in the morning
• The human distributor must be able to differentiate between the target species
   and non-target species and remain on site for up to an hour following distribution
   (in all weathers) to ensure non-target species do not take the drug
• The human applicator must be available to remove the drug if rain starts to fall to
   ensure that no contamination takes place
• The human applicator must thoroughly assess pigeon activity on the site prior to
   distribution of the drug and undertake a pigeon head count each day
• The human applicator must ensure that children and pets do not come into contact
   with the drug
• The human applicator must increase/reduce the amount of drug distributed each
   day to ensure optimum coverage for the flock
• The human applicator must ensure that no protected species of birds are attracted
   to the site (and attempt to exploit the drug) as it is an offence to feed treated
   bait to protected, threatened or endangered birds in the USA
• Daily observations for non-target birds must be undertaken throughout the 5-14
   day acclimatisation period and once a week thereafter
• The drug can only be distributed on rooftop areas or paved areas where public
   access is restricted
• The human applicator must wear protective clothing including goggles, long
   trousers and a long sleeved shirt and all protective clothing must be washed
   before re-use
• The human applicator must wear protective clothing including goggles, long
   trousers and a long sleeved shirt and all protective clothing must be washed
   before re-use
• The human applicator must wash thoroughly before eating, drinking or smoking

This extensive list of operating restrictions imposed on the use of the drug will undoubtedly render it prohibitive in terms of cost alone, irrespective of whether or not the drug proves to be effective or lethal in the long term. No property owner with an on-going pigeon-related problem will even consider using the drug based on the fact that it will fail to provide any form of relief from pigeon-related problems on a building or site. The only means of reducing the impact of pigeon-related problems on a specific building or site is to provide a system based on the use of humane but effective deterrents and anti-roosting products combined, where appropriate, with artificial breeding facilities. Artificial breeding facilities (which will encourage pigeons away from their existing roosts) are scientifically proven to reduce flock size when using egg removal and replacement techniques pioneered by the PiCAS Group. Start-up costs for a PiCAS loft-based system will be extremely low and will only require a single visit, once a week and at any time of the day, to remove newly laid eggs and replace with dummy eggs. This should take no more than 5-10 minutes per week. Cleaning would be carried out once every 3-6 months and would take approximately half an hour. The costs associated with operating PiCAS's birth control programme pale into insignificance when compared to the cost of using OvoControl P.

In order to provide OvoControl P as recommended by the manufacturer an employee would have to be identified that has the ability to differentiate between target species and non-target species and who must be on site every day, 365 days a year at anti-social times. Attending a site in the early hours of the morning would undoubtedly attract overtime payments. Clearly the drug is not attractive to individual property owners so who is the drug aimed at? The answer must be local government bodies and yet the average pigeon control budget for a UK Council is less than £1,000 per annum. PiCAS’s local government clients react extremely negatively when asked to spend 5-10 minutes, once a week, servicing an artificial breeding facility. To expect those same councils to spend tens of thousands of pounds a year distributing OvoControl P is just pushing the envelope a little too far. Even if the drug was deemed safe and effective with no welfare-related issues whatsoever, which seems highly unlikely, there is not a council anywhere in the UK that could or would consider it as a viable control option.

Quite simply the use of OvoControl P is cost-prohibitive and when also taking welfare implications into consideration the drug cannot be considered to be anything other than an expensive and dangerous tool which, in the wrong hands, could wreak havoc on wild bird populations worldwide. In the opinion of the PiCAS Group OvoControl P will never be licenced for use in the UK.

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Egg-oiling is a humane and effective method of controlling the breeding of certain species of birds. It works by depriving the fertilised egg of oxygen, thus preventing it from developing and hatching. Egg-oiling is a relatively straightforward procedure which, if carried out correctly, causes no harm or distress to the adult bird or embryo. Birds will continue to sit on the eggs completely unaware that the egg has been interfered with. Other methods of egg interference such as pricking, shaking and egg removal cause the bird to reject the eggs and re-lay.

Egg-oiling must be carried out under license from DEFRA and further information and an application form can be obtained from them at:

Wildlife Administration Unit, DEFRA, Burghill Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, BS10 6NJ
Tel: 0845 601 4523
Email: enquiries.southwest@defra.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.defra.gov.uk

Egg-oiling is carried out using liquid paraffin BP (also known as paraffin oil or light white mineral oil) which can be obtained from major chemical suppliers. Each egg must be thoroughly coated in the oil in order for the process to be effective. This is easily achieved by using a suitable container such as a small bucket or wide-mouthed plastic jar in which the paraffin oil is placed. The egg must be fully immersed in the oil and then rotated to ensure that it is thoroughly coated. It is not recommended that the oil is applied using a sponge or spray as it is easy to miss parts of the egg using these methods. Once coated any excess oil should be allowed to drain off the egg before it is replaced in the nest.

The use of Paraffin BP has been approved under the Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) but protective equipment must be used. This includes the wearing of gloves and goggles. Apart from this commonsense is all that is required. It is advisable that egg-oiling is carried out by teams of a minimum of two people. This allows for one person to scare the adult birds from the nest and keep watch for returning birds whilst the other person carries out the egg-oiling. When oiling gulls eggs it is also advisable to wear a hard hat as gulls may swoop in an attempt to protect their nests and contents.

It is important that egg-oiling is carried out at the correct time of year and nesting sites should be monitored for at least 3-4 weeks prior to the start of the breeding season. As a general rule birds nest from March onwards but this can vary greatly depending on the target species and also on other factors such as the weather conditions. Bird like pigeons nest all-year round and excessively warm or cold weather may cause birds to breed earlier or later than they normally would. Once laying has started all nests should be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that the whole clutch is oiled as soon as possible after the last egg has been laid. Treated nests should then be marked to prevent duplication of effort at a later date.

It is important to continue to monitor nests throughout the breeding period and include all known or potential nesting sites. Once breeding has started monitoring should be undertaken on a weekly basis. In the case of waterfowl the provision of artificial nesting facilities in the form of nesting boxes or floating islands can greatly increase the chances of locating all nests. Below is some brief advice on egg-oiling for some of the most commonly controlled birds.

Canada Geese

Ideally Canada Geese eggs should be oiled as soon as possible after the clutch (normally 5-6 eggs) has been laid. This can be achieved by regular monitoring of nesting sites. Eggs should be oiled 3 days after the last egg has been laid in order to ensure that the clutch is complete. Whilst this method is fine for solitary nests, it can be impractical for large colonies of geese. In these circumstances it is possible to achieve a good result by carrying out the egg-oiling on 3 separate occasions. As Canada Geese normally begin laying in the second half of March, the most appropriate times to carry out the egg-oiling are the end of March, mid April and the end of April. This will normally ensure that the majority of eggs are oiled and that the oiling is carried out soon enough after laying is complete. After each egg-oiling treatment nests should be marked to prevent duplication on another occasion.

Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese eggs can be treated in the same way as Canada Geese (above) except that they tend to lay later in the year and as such the most appropriate times for oiling are mid April, end of April and mid May.


Ducks generally nest from March onwards and will lay a clutch of around 12 eggs over a period of a few days. Once laying has begun the nests should be monitored daily and the eggs oiled as soon as possible after completion of the clutch.

Large Gulls

Large gulls (Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Greater Black-backed) will generally lay from mid April to June. A colony of nesting gulls should be monitored on a weekly basis from mid March onward. Once laying commences the nest should be monitored on a daily basis until the whole clutch is laid. Eggs should oiled as soon as possible after completion of the clutch.

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Anti-Perching Devices   Anti-Roosting Spikes   Post and Wire Systems   Nylon Bird Netting   Sonic / Ultrasonic Devices   Repellent Gels   Electric Shock Systems   Birds of Prey   Contraceptive Pill   Egg-Oiling
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The PiCAS Group will provide advice on the control of any bird species. Advice is most commonly sought for problems relating to the following:

Pigeon or Rock Dove: Pigeons are never more at home than when roosting and breeding on buildings in urban areas and as a result they are the most commonly controlled species of bird on the planet. Conventional pest control options such as lethal control has simply acted to increase pigeon numbers, not reduce them. The PiCAS Group has specialised in pigeon control for decades, researching and designing effective and sustainable pigeon control systems and as a result is now considered to be the foremost authority on the subject worldwide. PiCAS will provide advice on the protection of individual buildings and sites through to the provision of area-wide pigeon control systems for local authorities.

Gulls: Gulls have historically caused problems for property owners in towns and cities close to coastal areas but now many species of gull, including herring gulls, black headed gulls and black backed gulls are becoming common in many inland urban areas. These species are commonly known as roof-nesting gulls. Effective gull management systems are complex and to be effective they must be holistic and deal with the source of the problem as well as the problem itself. PiCAS will advise on all aspects of humane but effective gull control.

Ducks and Geese: Ducks and geese are a growing problem throughout the UK in villages, towns and even city parks with deliberate and persistent feeding of the birds being the root cause of the problem. Duck control and goose control is never straightforward and can be a highly public and emotive issue. PiCAS has extensive experience of providing humane but effective duck and goose management systems for councils, property owners and site managers throughout the UK.

Canada Geese: This species is starting to cause major problems for property owners and site managers throughout the UK. As with most waterfowl controls, Canada goose control systems are complex and must be holistic. PiCAS has extensive experience of controlling Canada goose populations, whether they be static or migratory, and will tailor a Canada goose control programme to the specific needs of the client.

Starlings and Sparrows: Although starlings were a common problem in town and city centres worldwide during the 1960’s and 1970’s, fewer problems are now being reported. However, where starlings do roost in large numbers problems can be extreme and PiCAS will provide any property owner with a tailor-made starling control system.

Sparrow populations are in rapid decline and as a result fewer sparrow-related problems are being reported. Sparrows do sometimes cause problems in food production plants and food preparation facilities however. Sparrow control is rarely simple or straightforward due to the fact that these small birds can easily access roof voids or internal areas due to their size. PiCAS will provide advice on humane but effective sparrow control.

Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves: These species are more complex to control and are more commonly associated with rural areas. Both species are now becoming more common in urban areas where they can cause problems for residential property owners. Control options for these species are limited but PiCAS will offer advice where both wood pigeon control and collared dove control is concerned.

Rook, Magpie, Jackdaw and Hooded Crow (Corvids): These species commonly cause problems in both urban and rural areas and can be complex to control. Rook control and Crow control options are usually limited to rural areas where they are perceived to cause crop damage and predate on livestock in the case of crows, but nuisance is exaggerated. Rooks often breed in rookeries and can cause significant disturbance as a result of noise. Magpie control is more commonly sought in urban areas due to their growing presence in domestic gardens as a result of persecution in rural areas. Jackdaws rarely cause problems other than nesting in chimney pots and therefore jackdaw control is extremely straightforward. All members of the Corvid family can be controlled effectively using non-lethal and holistic controls.

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