The main species of interest in a food safety context are:
- The feral pigeon, collared dove
- The house sparrow and starling.
- The three species of large gull; herring gull, greater black-backed gull and lesser black- backed gull
Distinguishing features of common pest birds:
The collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), is about 27cm long, fawn-grey in colour with a narrow black band at the back of the neck and a white tail tip.
The male house sparrow is 14.5cm and recognised by its grey crown, black bib, light grey cheeks and under parts, and brown wings with black streaks. The female is dull brown.
The starling is 22cm and has a summer plumage of glossy black with metallic purple and green tints. Generally found in large flocks.
Only some gulls, may be killed, but as gulls can be difficult to identify expert opinion should be sought.
Problems associated with pest birds
Nests and droppings block gutters and down pipes. The resulting overflowing water leads to timber decay, broken rendering, ruined decorations and even structural damage.
Pigeons in grain handling establishments consume large quantities of food. In addition, pigeon droppings, regurgitated pellets (produced by gulls), feathers and nesting materials are common contaminants of grain destined for human consumption. Sparrow and pigeon droppings and feathers contaminate food both in production and awaiting dispatch.
Spread of disease agents
The close association of birds with man gives rise to the possibility of disease transmission. Sparrows, pigeons and gulls may carry bacteria causing Salmonellosis. Pigeons carry Ornithosis, a disease similar to viral pneumonia that can be transmitted to man through infected droppings or respiratory droplets. Ornithosis is often mistaken for flu in humans and so is possibly far more common than is realised.
Sources of insect infestation
Birds’ nests harbour insects and mites which live as scavengers on the nest material or droppings or as external parasites on the birds. Prevention of nest building on premises reduces this damage. The following insects and mites are known to occur in birds’ nests. Carpet beetle; fur beetle; case-bearing clothes moth; brown house moth; white shouldered house moth; Dermestid beetles; yellow Meal-worm beetle; Biscuit beetle; Australian spider beetle; Cheese mite; Flour mite; Dust mites; Lesser housefly; Blowflies and Bird mites.
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