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Removing birds nests from guttering

As the colder weather creeps in and you check your guttering for damage or weakness, take a moment to reflect on gutter hazards that are out there, but don’t necessarily spring to mind- bird’s nests in particular. Unlike other gutter blockages, however, removing bird’s nests from guttering isn’t as simple.

Recognising a blockage

As the manufacturers of high level vacuum cleaning and inspection systems, SpaceVac says –

“It is important to keep gutters clear from debris and blockages in order for them to serve their purpose correctly.  Recognising the signs of a blocked gutter, therefore, is important, as this will let you know when they need to be cleaned and, in the process, saving you potential property damage.”  

The signs of a blocked gutter include:

  • Overflowing water
  • Sagging pipe
  • External wall discolouration

How do bird’s nests effect guttering

There are several causes of blocked guttering, including; leaves, dirt, twigs and even hedgehogs. There is, however, a hazard that tends to slip through the investigators cracks! I am talking about birds, which may paint a pretty picture – whilst picking at snacks on your bird table, but these feathered friends can cause immense damage to your guttering and roof.

All birds tend to look for safe, isolated spots to build nests but in the UK, Finches, Starlings and House sparrows seem to think that a gutter is nesting Utopia. This may sound like a lovely idea, but be warned- they can wreak havoc to your guttering, downpipe and water flow:

  • Blockage: apart from the obvious blockage from the actual nesting material – consisting of twigs, dirt, feathers, grass and clippings, the accompanying droppings and food can be just as harmful.
  • Rotting: bird droppings have incredibly high levels of acidity, which when left untreated can cause major damage to metal, iron in particular.
  • Water pollution: when the water becomes trapped through the blockage and lays stagnant, it becomes a breeding ground for insects and bacteria. This, in turn, pollutes the water supply and can be potentially harmful to pets if left to flow over onto the property ground.
  • Disruption: unnoticed, the nest will soon be full of chirping, hungry chicks, and then follows a constant period of early morning wake up calls and feeding frenzies.  This, in turn, produces more and more droppings and waste.
  • Distressing: sometimes dead birds and chicks can be found in the pipes, having fallen and found themselves unable to get out.

Unfortunately, in the UK it isn’t as easy to get rid of the nest once it has taken hold as the RSPB rules state that a nest must be left alone until the young birds have left. It is therefore important to prevent nesting.

Ways to stop birds nesting

  • Ensure your gutters are thoroughly cleaned either by hand, ladderless systems, or (if you really want to be different) with a monkey.
  • Install or replace a gutter guard, which stops all debris, nests and birds from getting into the gutter.  
  • Hanging an owl, or a scarecrow, will act as short-term prevention, although these will soon become far too familiar to the birds, who will eventually ignore them.
  • Hanging a flag, windsock, or anything else that moves in the wind will scare birds away.
  • Putting a birds nest in the garden to entice the nesters away from the welcoming guttering.
  • Installing bird spikes that can be laid along the guttering will not only stop birds landing, but most definitely send any flying home dwellers packing.

Of course, sometimes hindsight is a wonderful thing and the birds are nested before you realise. So, if you do spot the signs that your guttering is blocked – then you can always get in touch with the RSPB and ask their advice.