Norfolk business tackles pigeon and gull problem head on
Pinguin Foods employs falconry to change habits of problem birds
International fresh food processing company, Pinguin Foods, has embarked on an innovative programme of measures to manage the issue of problem gulls and pigeons at its Kings Lynn site. Pinguin stores, processes and packages vegetables at its 20 acre site on the outskirts of Kings Lynn. The site is a large complex of buildings with numerous ledges and roof tops which are ideal roosting sites for gulls and pigeons.
“Pigeons and gulls have always been a problem for us,” explains Tim Homewood, technical manager at Pinguin’s Kings Lynn operation. “They see us as a comfortable place to set up home but having them here is not appropriate for a site such as ours.”
“Since installing solar panels across our site the level of bird activity has increased further,” continues Mr Homewood. “The panels create a warm and comfortable environment for nesting and roosting. Gull and pigeon droppings affect the operation of the solar panels and the acid within the bird waste is damaging to the fabric of our buildings.” Having previously used more common methods of bird control, such as bird spikes and netting, in an attempt to manage their bird problem, earlier this year Pinguin Foods appointed Norfolk-based bird control specialists NBC Environment to take a fresh view. NBC has embarked on a three year programme of falconry visits to break the cycle of returning gulls and pigeons.
“All UK birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to kill or injure a bird, or to move or destroy an active nest,” explains Stuart Miller, key account development manager at NBC Environment who devised the solution for Pinguin Foods. “Whilst gulls and pigeons are increasingly being acknowledged as ‘pests’, even the familiar Herring Gull has amber protected status, despite the fact that the gull population is increasing and rooftop nesting has quadrupled over the past 15 years.
“Gulls often return to the same nesting spot, year after year, bringing their offspring with them,” continues Stuart. “They can live for up to 35 years, start breeding at only three years old and can produce around 30 chicks in a ten year period. As the chicks grow and reach breeding age they may return to the same nesting spot so the number of birds, and associated problems, increases year on year. A colony of gulls will remain at the nesting spot for around six months of the year and once in situ it’s very hard to remove or disperse them.”
“Pigeons, whilst not as aggressive as gulls, present a year round problem. Whilst not habitual by nature, we do find that once they discover a comfortable environment they are likely to stay there unless deterred.”
NBC Environment uses specially trained falcons and hawks to discourage gulls and pigeons from nesting at a particular site on a permanent basis, by modifying patterns of bird behaviour, reducing breeding and deterring colonies from returning to their habitual nesting spots. A successful control programme taps into the birds’ natural instincts. For the bird, the key motivator is self-preservation and they choose a nesting site based on its benefits to them. If a regular nesting area can be made less attractive, inaccessible or more risky they will be less likely to select it.
“After less than a year we are already seeing a definite improvement and the gull and pigeon on our site has reduced significantly,” says Tim Homewood. “During the gull nesting season NBC Environment were flying falcons here around three times each week and will maintain a regular presence throughout the year to put off pigeons who roost in the UK all year round.”
This story was featured by local media:
Radio Norfolk (Story is at 1:22:44 to 1:26:56) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04d9cqm
BBC Look East https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNhV_2h9dns&t=18s