How to identify animals living in your attic

If you have wildlife scrabbling in your attic or crashing around on your roof, you need to know how to identify it and how to deal with it.

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Identify the animals in your attic article spread
Trying to sleep on a hot summer’s night is hard enough without the noise of animals scrabbling around in the attic or crashing about on the roof.
 
We introduce the animals most likely to invade your roof space, the signs they leave and how to deal with them.
 
MEET THE ANIMALS THAT LOVE ROOFS AND LOFTS
 
Birds on the roof
  • Herring and lesser black-backed gulls nest on flat roofs. The herring gull’s nest is often only a lined scrape, while the lesser black-backed gull’s is normally made of moss and grass.
  • Mallards also nest on flat roofs. The nest is made of dead leaves, grasses and rush stems and built up with feathers.
  • Peregrines occasionally nest on windowsills of flats. No nesting material is used, but debris often accumulates around the young.
  • Kestrels nest on flat roofs or ledges. The nest is usually just a scrape in debris or soil, though pellets and feathers do accumulate.
 
Birds in the loft
  • Jackdaws frequently nest in chimneys (below) and also use lofts and thatched roofs. Their nests can be anything from a simple lining to a substantial structure with a foundation of sticks and rubbish, lined with wool, hair, fur and paper.
  • Stock doves nest socially in holes, often quite deep in thatch, and occasionally on ledges. When nesting in a hole, there is little or no nest material; elsewhere, they form a platform of twigs, roots and grass, sometimes lined with feathers.
  • Feral pigeons nest colonially on ledges or in lofts. They build a scanty nest of twigs, coarse grass and roots.
 
Birds under the eaves
  • Swallows build solitary nests under eaves or inside buildings. They mix mud with saliva and paste little balls together in rows; plant stems add strength and often trail from the nest.
  • House martins nest in colonies under eaves, sometimes in lofts. The nest is built in the same way as a swallow’s, but is hemispherical with a small hole at the top.
  • Swifts nest under eaves. A colony often uses several houses in one street. The nest is a saucer made from plant debris and feathers, stuck together with saliva. They can use the same nests year after year.
  • Starlings nest colonially under eaves or in lofts. The nest is made of straw, dried grass, feathers and other materials.
 
Mammals in the loft
  • Bats rarely use loft spaces – they generally roost between underfelt and tiles.
  • Grey squirrels often build nests out of insulation in attics. They chew beams and electric cables but, unlike rats and mice, can be heard scampering around during the day.
  • Edible dormice (only found in the Chilterns) leave piles of faeces in specific places (latrines), are only present in summer and are noisy at night.
  • Foxes gain access to lofts using fire escapes or by climbing up sloping roofs. They may use them as daytime refuges but have been known to rear cubs in them.
 
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE UNWELCOME GUESTS
 
  • Birds are temporary visitors, and most species should simply be enjoyed. The majority are protected by law when their nests are being built or are in use.
     
  •  You can prevent jackdaws from nesting in chimneys by covering them with a pot or cover that still allows airflow.
     
  •  It’s difficult to prevent nesting gulls from returning each year, other than by netting your roof.
     
  • Foxes, edible dormice, rats and squirrels can cause serious damage and pigeons make a mess. You can prevent them from entering lofts by blocking entrance holes with balls of chicken wire, making sure all work is done outside the breeding season.
     
  • For foxes, stout metal grills should be fitted securely over holes. 

 

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