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Where there's muck there's ... A £57 million bill

18th July 2008 Print
Some may claim it to be a sign of good luck, but bird muck is proving to be nothing of the sort for British drivers, as new research reveals the multimillion pound cost of bird droppings.

A study from Zurich Insurance has found that repairing the damage caused by bird droppings is costing British motorists nearly £57m a year.

Nine out of 10 motorists (89 per cent) have been on the receiving end of a bird ‘strike' in the last 12 months, with an unfortunate four per cent of these - more than a million motorists - claiming to fall target every single day.

In light of this, buying a green car may be a wise investment. Just 86 per cent of drivers of green cars have been hit by bird droppings in the last year, compared to 92 per cent of drivers of silver cars. They also appear to be hit more infrequently, as just a third of green car drivers (36 per cent) are hit once a fortnight or more, compared to nearly one in two silver car drivers (49 per cent).

The research suggests that motorists in the South West are worst are affected, with 95 per cent on the receiving end of a bird strike in the last 12 months, while Yorkshire motorists are most likely to escape (82 per cent of drivers affected by bird droppings).

Yet despite the frequency of being hit by bird lime, as it is technically known, just one in five drivers (20 per cent) removes it immediately, with nearly a third (30 per cent) choosing to wait until they next get round to washing the car.

And droppings are more than just unsightly and unsanitary. Two fifths of motorists whose cars have been hit by bird droppings (38 per cent) have reported permanent damage, with one in 10 of these (11 per cent) suffering lasting dull spots on their car's paintwork and one in 12 (8 per cent) permanent discolouration. One in 12 has even reported acidic bird muck eating away their car's paintwork.

Even removing bird lime can be damaging, with 13 per cent of drivers whose car has been affected having scratched their car's paintwork when trying to remove droppings.

And aside from the cost of repairing the damage it causes, bird lime can also have an impact on a car's resale value. More than one in seven drivers whose car has been affected by droppings (13 per cent) claim the damage has knocked off more than £200 from their motor's selling price, with more than one in 14 (seven per cent) claiming it devalues their car by more than £400.

Bird control expert, Guy Merchant, said, "Mid-march to the end of August is the worst time of the year for bird droppings. It is the breeding time for large populations of the pigeons and sea gulls who make their homes in trees and the rafters of residential and commercial buildings, which is also quite often where we park our cars as well.

"The influx of birds and the early summer sun is a costly combination for car owners as the hot weather bakes the excrement into paintwork, and if left untreated, causes major damage to the exterior of cars."

Mike Quinton, Managing Director for Direct & Partnerships at Zurich Insurance said, "Being hit by bird lime may be relatively commonplace but can be costly to repair and seriously devalue your car. Unfortunately, very few birds have insurance to claim from, and your own insurance is unlikely to cover it, so the best way of avoiding having to pay for damage is to act quickly and remove the offending item as soon as possible.

"Prevention may also be better than cure. With three quarters of cars mainly parked outside, a car cover can be a wise investment for less than £50, especially if you have no option but to park under trees. If you value your car, polish it - building up another layer of protection will help. Also, never wipe off droppings with a dry cloth, as many drivers have discovered, the grit and seeds in bird lime can easily scratch your car's paintwork."

Top Tips

3Ps - Problematic, Purple Poo. Get rid of these as soon as possible. Many birds feed on berries that make their excretions a darker colour, which is high in acidic content and will dis-colour paintwork.

Don't wipe; spray. All birds eat seeds. The hard seeds that are not digested are excreted with the lime so when you wipe it away they will scratch your paintwork.

Avoid broad leaf trees. Pigeons prefer to dwell, roost and breed in large trees that are most identifiable by their size and foliage.

Keep carbonated water in the car. Store an unopened bottle of carbonated water in the car. When you get droppings on the car use the water to power wash off the muck. Make sure to get a bottle without salt content.

Polish and wax your car. Polish and wax form an invisible layer of protection for your car and will protect again sun, birds and any other elements.

Use a cover for your car. The best way to save your car from bird lime is to use a cover during the summer months.