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How can I stop birds nesting in my roof?

House martin

Image: John Markham

Many of the birds that use roof spaces are now species of conservation concern because of their population decline over the past 25 years.

Swifts have declined, starlings and house sparrows are red listed, and house martins and swallows are amber listed.

These birds should be allowed to nest wherever there is no conflict. Roofs are vital sanctuaries for them all because of the loss of natural nest sites. They do need our help, so, if at all possible, please allow them access to nest in your roof.

'Roofs are vital sanctuaries for birds because of the loss of natural nests sites.'

All bird nests are protected by law. It is illegal to intentionally disturb or destroy the active nest of any wild bird.

If you must deter birds from nesting in your roof, work to deny access must be done during the winter months when they are not nesting (note: pigeons can nest throughout the year).

Check your building each winter, ideally between October and February, or ask someone else to do it for you. Clean out and seal any holes or gaps as appropriate. Do this during the morning to minimise the risk of roosting birds being trapped in. 

In domestic properties, if there is doubt that all birds have left, fix a fine wire mesh over the entrance so that you can see any trapped birds. Only make a permanent repair when you are certain that no birds remain. 

For larger or commercial properties it can be more difficult to establish that all birds have left. In these cases, it may be advisable to seek advice from a specialist organisation such as the Pigeon Control Advisory Service (click on the link to the right). so if the roof must be sealed off, place nest boxes under the eaves for starlings and sparrows.