NASTY DEATH: A mangrove kingfisher brought to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife could not be saved from a terrible death brought about by people putting out bird repellent gel to use against feral, invasive pigeons.
DURBAN - Kingfishers are starving to death after making contact with a bird repellent gel put out for invasive feral pigeons, according to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (Crow).

Director Paul Hoyte revealed this week that 10 kingfishers had been brought to the centre in the past month.

“Six mangrove kingfishers came to our centre (in Yellowwood Park) and four pygmy kingfishers were handed into Crow’s Mhlanga depot. Only one, a mangrove kingfisher, survived,” he said.

Hoyte added that only 30% of birds destroyed by the gels were the target birds.

NASTY DEATH: A mangrove kingfisher brought to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife could not be saved from a terrible death brought about by people putting out bird repellent gel to use against feral, invasive pigeons.

The gels stick to birds’ feet, disturbing their weight distribution, which affects flying and makes perching difficult. It also gets stuck in their beaks after they try to preen it off their feet. They end up starving to death.

“Not even feral invasive pigeons deserve to die like this,” said Hoyte.

Black sparrow hawks affected by the gel have also ended up at the centre.

In the past five years, the centre has seen 79 cases.

Hoyte said people often resorted to using the gel as a quick, cheap way of solving pigeon problems when, in fact, they had not adequately repaired holes in their roofs.

“People just don’t think what happens to the birds when they fly away,” Hoyte added.

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) researcher Pricilla Stiglingh said the organisation was opposed to gels in general.

“They are not selective and they are especially harmful,” Stiglingh said.

She added that use of gel could lead to a contravention of the Animal Protection Act. However, Stiglingh did not know of any cases which had reached the courts.

Alternative methods which the NSPCA advised to deter birds included maintaining good sanitation practices, thereby making less food available; using visual scares such as scarecrows, shiny objects and decoys mimicking predators; putting out bird spikes, bird slopes, netting and mesh; installing motion activated lights and sonic bird repellents to broadcast bird alarm calls.

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