Common Bird Species

Many of the bird species in South Africa are good to have around, thanks to their attractive plumage and birdsong. However, some birds can become a serious nuisance in the wrong locations, especially the Indian Myna bird.

Learn more below about common types of pest birds found across the country.

Pigeons

(Columba livia)

Also known as city doves or street pigeons, they are descended from wild rock doves. They thrive in an urban environment and only require the smallest amount of shelter on buildings.

Appearance

  • 32cm long.
  • Blue—grey in colour (although other colours are common).

Lifecycle

  • 2 – 3 broods per year, with 2 eggs in each clutch.
  • 17 – 19 day incubation period.
  • Young birds spend 35 – 37 days in the nest.

Habits

  • Feeds on seeds, green feed, domestic scraps in and around cities, near roosting sites.
  • Nests on ledges.

Seagulls

(Family – Laridae)

Gulls are often found in coastal towns and cities. Only a small number are recognised as being pest birds, such as Silver Gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae), the Lesser black–backed gull (Larus fuscus) and the Herring gull (Larus argentatus).

Appearance

  • Silver Gulls have a white head, tail and underparts, with a light grey back and black-tipped wings.
  • In adult birds the bill, legs and eye-rings are bright orange-red.
  • Identification of gulls can be difficult due to seasonal variations in their plumage.

Lifecycle

  • 1 brood per year, with 3 eggs in each clutch.
  • 25 day incubation period.
  • Young birds spend 35 – 42 days in the nest.

Habits

  • Feed away from their roosting sites; omnivorous.
  • Nests on cliffs and buildings.

House Sparrow

(Passer domesticus)

The House sparrow is a significant pest to the food industry because of the risk of contamination from their droppings and the damage done to packaged goods.

Appearance

  • Less than 15cm long.
  • Males can be identified by the grey crown on their heads, and black throat ‘bib’.
  • Females and young are mostly plain brown.

Lifecycle

  • Sparrows live for four to seven years, with up to five breeding seasons.
  • The breeding season runs through Spring and Summer, and up to three broods of 4–6 eggs may be laid in this time.

Habits

  • The same nest will tend to be used every year, resulting in a build up of nest debris, and insects associated with their nests.
  • It is a pest to the food industry in particular because of the risk of contamination from their droppings and the damage done to packaged goods.

Indian Myna

(Acridotheres tristis)

The Indian Myna is native to the southern and southern-east Asia and was introduced in South Africa in the 1900’s, originating from captive birds that escaped from Durban. In some cases these birds are beneficial in combatting insect pests, particularly plague locusts. Since then their numbers have continued to increase throughout South Africa, and they have become known as a pest bird due to their increasing population in urban areas.

Appearance

  • 250mm in size.
  • Brown and white in colour with a dark green neck area.
  • Yellow beak and legs.

Lifecycle

  • Average lifespan of four years in the wild, possibly over 12 years.
  • The breed 4-5 glossy pale blue eggs in spring and summer.

Habits

  • Feed on insects but on food scraps also.
  • Nests in roof cavities, palm trees and sheltered areas.

Starlings

(Sturnus vulgaris)

Appearance

  • They are 20-23cm long, and can be recognised by their pointed wings and short tail when flying. At first sight they appear to be plain black, but the feathers catch the light and may appear iridescent green or purple.

Lifecycle

  • Starlings can rear up to two broods a year, in September and October. Each clutch usually consists of 4–6 eggs, the young staying in the nest for about 3 weeks. 
  • Breeding can extend into November and December if conditions are favourable.

Habits

  • The concentration of droppings from a large roosting flock provides a good medium for pathogenic fungi, some of which can be harmful or even fatal to humans. 
  • It is an agricultural pest of standing crops, but will also flock into cities in large numbers.