Sydney’s common street birds, such as Indian mynas, pigeons and seagulls, famously request food at every opportunity, something that was once seen as fairly harmless but now considered a serious problem of flying vermin by NSW food hygiene laws. This problem has evolved far past pesky birds milling around Sydneysiders’ feet in search for scraps, now a huge safety hazard as birds aggressively pine for food from a direct source and leave disease and infestations behind with their feces and feathers. Multiple attempts have been made to deter these pests, but most to no avail.
There have been multiple complaints about seagulls around Circular Quay, not only stealing people’s meals straight from their plates, but violently attacking people as they eat. The Sydney Morning Herald projected the City of Sydney Council’s complaint reports, earlier provided to Fairfax Media, of large groups of seagulls bombarding people’s meals and even pecking at the food in their mouths and scratching at their faces. The council released a statement mentioning: “having people feed them has caused the birds to become aggressive when food is available” as a contributing factor of their increased unwanted presence. This not only concerns customers, but also the businesses that are gaining reputations as sites of unsafe experiences.
Regular visits from seagulls, pigeons and Indian mynas make an area’s need for excess hygiene management soar. Birds leave droppings and feathers across all exposed surfaces without discrimination, making outdoor eating spaces unattractive and unsanitary, costing restaurants a loss of customers and extra labour. According to pest control expert Bryce Peters, an entomologist at the University of Technology Sydney who calls pigeons “cockroaches with feathers”, the defecations contain salmonella and, as well as the feathers, may also be carrying lice. PestWorld.org states that their droppings may also harbour the growth of fungus, contributing to lung infections such as histoplasmosis. Mr Peters says that even a single pigeon sighted strolling along a restaurant floor could be the sign of a real problem, hence the comparison to cockroaches.
The NSW Food Authority’s Food Standards Code requires food businesses to take “all practical measures” to keep the flying vermin off the premises, although this is seemingly easier said than done. A mechanical hawk was installed by the Sydney Opera House in attempt to scare away seagulls in 2014 but had no significant results. Similarly, owl kites and audio deterrents had little to no effect on the birds and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority’s initiative of installing spikes on the roofs and awnings of buildings discouraged roosting in only a small proportion of the places the adaptable birds have been known to set up nests. Several nearby residents and regular visitors have inquired about culling as a solution to the problem, with the only response being from the council, saying that is was not up to them as the control of animal populations is managed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The Sydney Morning Herald reported one resident’s proposal of “a program to trap and destroy these birds, to try to help the native bird populations recover”, highlighting the detrimental effect of the introduced pests have had on our ecosystem, while another suggested that while they were unsure if culling was appropriate, restaurants should at least “erect signs warning people it is unsafe to eat outside.” The urbanisation of Sydney has made it a comfortable space for pigeons and Indian mynas, birds that prefer urban settings over vegetation, to migrate to, thus the RSPCA has suggested renewing urban spaces to be less suitable for these birds, favouring this approach over the idea of culling. Building developers could take note of this idea when designing new buildings and the renewals of old buildings as it would also double as an addition of aesthetic value and the implementation of an eco-friendly image.
Without new measures being taken, the new fashion of eating indoors in Sydney will have to prevail as people are made to fear for their safety if they wish to enjoy an outdoor dining experience by the iconic harbour. These common pests have come to depend on humans over time and without a dramatic push, will not be turning back to their tamer days anytime soon.
For all matters regarding pest birds and their extermination, contact Masters Pest Control Sydney on (02) 8007 4666.