For the past three years, I’ve had House Martins nesting under my gutter during the summer months. These birds appear in May, hatch their chicks and then leave just as Autumn is beginning to creep in.
Unfortunately, their chicks tend to drop a metric tonne of bird poop out of the nest, which requires near-constant cleaning!
The House Martin.
These beautiful birds travel up from Africa every summer to nest in countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom. They build their nests using small mud pellets that they collect from nearby ponds, streams and puddles. Usually, it takes a couple of weeks for them to complete their nest, as the collected mud pellets are painstakingly added in layers.
Removing the nest.
In many countries, it is illegal to remove a nest after the birds have laid their eggs. The fines for interfering with such a nest can be large. In 2009, an Irishman was fined €1,500 after a wildlife conservation officer discovered that he had cut down nests with eggs in them. The man in question had to launch an appeal to get the fine reduced to €900.
In the United Kingdom, you can be fined £5,000 or jailed for six months under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.
It can also be illegal to tamper or interfere with a nest as soon as the birds begin building it. One tip-off from a nature-conscious neighbour is all it takes for you to end up paying a hefty fine.
If you want to remove the nest, you will need to wait until it has been vacated.
The first year, the House Martins arrived during May and built their nest under the gutter above my front door. Their chicks then proceeded to poop all over my doorstep, which meant that I spent most of my summer cleaning up after them. I’d clean the doorstep in the evening and by the next day, a new layer of bird droppings had appeared. They packed their bags and left for Africa in August and their nest fell down in November, resulting in a muddy mess. I also had to buy a new doormat.
The second year, arrived back at my house after flying thousands of miles from Africa. They rebuilt their nest in the exact same location and I had another summer of constant bird poop.
The third year, they were able to reuse the same nest, as it actually survived throughout the winter.
This year, they arrived back, only to discover that their nest had fallen during the winter. They also discovered that a Starling had built a nest in my neighbour’s gutter, which was just a few feet away. Luckily enough for me, the Starling’s presence prevented the House Martins from building their nest above my door and they ended up moving to a nearby neighbour’s house. Whether they attempt to come back and retry again next year remains to be seen!
Solving the bird poop issue.
If you’re having a similar issue with bird poop, then you can try the following solutions:
Before they arrive back in May, attach a plastic bag to the outside of your house, close to where they like to nest. The sight of a plastic bag flapping around on the outside of your house will keep them away.
Create a shelf and place it about two metres below the nesting area. Attach the shelf using keyhole brackets so that you can remove and replace the shelf as you see fit. The keyhole brackets will also make it easy for you to clean the shelf. Make sure that you leave about two metres between the shelf and the nest, as placing it closer may interfere.
I know it is can be difficult, but you could try to be a little more understanding. Think about it: These magnificent birds flew thousands of miles from the Congo in Africa, just to build a nest on your house. Their population is in decline because of homeowners removing their nests and you can also take solace in the fact that their poop does not contain any parasites that are harmful to humans.
Cleaning the bird poop off pavement.
To clean the bird poop, get a hose, a scrub brush and some washing up liquid. Sawdust is also helpful if you have access to it.
- Hose the pavement down to remove any loose bird droppings.
- Use a scrub brush or a tough yard brush to work the washing up liquid into the stains.
- If you have sawdust, you can cover the area and leave it for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the sawdust should have soaked up the water, washing up liquid and bird poop. At this stage, simply remove the sawdust with a broom and dust pan.
- If you do not have sawdust, let the washing up liquid sit for a few minutes before hosing down the pavement.