How to deal with nesting birds

Many people will hear a scratching above their heads at night and assume that they have somehow got mice or other rodents in the loft. But after a sleepless night most will find that they instead have nesting birds under the eaves, in the roof or even up inside the guttering. This may drive your cat wild and be something of an annoyance to you. So what can you do about nesting birds? And what can you do to avoid them in the first place?

bird nest with egg

Image source: Dakota Lynch via Wikimedia Commons

In the first instance you must realise that birds are wild creatures that really do mean you and your home no harm. In most cases they will get in a gap or hole in your roof or around it, although in some cases birds will build ingenious nests without the need for decay on your property. Housemartins are especially skilled at this, building tiny mud huts for their chicks under your eaves. Some will return each year, leaving a well-constructed nest behind as a reminder, but for many this nest will be a one-off. Your best option is just to leave them be and take no action other than to remove the nest once it is vacated if it looks unsightly. Some will fall down in winter in any case, or you can simply take it off when you go up to clear your gutters (or have a tradesperson do that for you).

This rule of ‘leave well alone’ should be followed for all nests where birds are already nesting and especially ones where they have eggs or chicks. It is illegal to disturb nesting birds or to destroy a nest before the chicks have matured and flown away. There are some cases where you may be able to destroy pigeons, but this is only in extreme situations where public health is at risk. This is unlikely to apply to most domestic situations and you risk a large fine (up to £5,000) or even six months in prison if you do destroy wild birds or their nests.

pigeons nest

Once you think the birds have left the nest, allow a week or two to pass so you are sure they have gone and the nest is no longer in use. You can then safely dispose of the nest or knock it down if it is attached to the eaves or side of the house. After that you can go about making sure that no more birds can nest in your loft space.

To do this you will need to look out for gaps between the eaves and your roof and any holes that may have been made in the woodwork around the top of your walls. You should also check for large spaces between the eaves and guttering. In short, you will need to fill in any gaps big enough to poke your small finger into. You can do this by using filler where necessary or by applying chicken wire to plug up any spaces where you think birds may nest or enter your roof.

nesting housemartin

Image source: Claus Ableiter via Wikimedia Commons

Do always consider nesting birds when you are doing work like this around the house. Obviously you don’t want holes where wildlife can get into your roof, but do consider leaving space in the eaves where birds can nest if they need to. Many species seek out these spaces in our towns and cities and it helps their numbers if good, safe spaces are available. So if you can allow birds to nest without inconveniencing you then do consider letting them do so.

The birds flying to feed their young will probably brighten your day and you will know that you have done something good for nature. You may have to clean your patio or path at the end of nesting season, but that could be a small price to pay.


Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

Related Articles


  1. Disagree with this article in it’s entirety. There is no small price to pay when the young, sick and the elderly are greeted to bird faeces day in and day out, as well as the horrendous noises of these pests in the loft or guttering on 3 storey properties. Please re write this article to state that failure to prevent the nesting of these pests will cause harm to those that are vulnerable to their excessive waste production, and cause systematic damage to the roof if not removed as early as possible.

  2. The question I have is around when I replace the roofline on my house and it’s full of nesting birds, how do I dispose of them? Then there is the problem with exposing workers to bird droppings and any insects that live in the nesting material and droppings!
    Is there a clean way to dispatch chicks?

  3. I have had birds in my roof for months and months now and you can hear them right in now council refuse to do anothing I already have a problem with dampness on this house and this is only going to make it worse….

  4. Wild birds (with the exception of pigeons) are not pests. Their natural habitats have been decimated by urbanisation and in most cases do no harm to property.

    1. Correct! Pigeon does no harm, the humans do that. Toilet dirt is all so tell them to clean it if they’re fussed.

  5. When bids start feeding their young chicks with slugs from the garden there are some slugs which escape, slither down the window leaving slug trails – Yuk!

  6. Birds nesting on roofs are very much a problem, Seagulls in particular, they appear to be Land Gulls these days rather than Seagulls. The damage, caused by the building of their nests of roofs, when it comes to repair the damage is very costly. Also when the chicks have hatched swooping then becomes a problem and also very dangerous to members of the public. Food is more often than not taken out of peoples hands. I realise that Gulls are a protected species but there again they are NOT an endangered species, certainly no shortage of them, and surely something could or should be done to control the breeding. Health and Safety is a big issue these days with political correctness but one has to pose the question what about the human species when being attacked by masses of swooping gulls., What about Human’s health and sleep deprecation with the early morning screeching and the gulls landing on the roofs.

  7. I think we may some kind of large bird nesting on our loft at the moment we haven’t a torch for light or a ladder to get in the loft to look just want some advise on what to do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button