Just in case this year hasn’t been cruel enough, some rich residents of a neighborhood in Bristol, England have installed anti-bird spikes in the trees above their cars to prevent bird poop from tarnishing their precious, fancy vehicles. It’s safe to say no one is ever super stoked to find a surprise splatter of bird poop on their car. But a typical reaction would likely be more along the lines of, “Oh, what a bummer” and not, “Welp, time to seek vengeance on the birds.”
The internet caught wind of the spikes after Twitter user Jennifer Garrett shared a photo taken by a former colleague, Anna Francis. Garrett’s tweet, which has since garnered over 8,700 likes as well as hundreds of comments of anti-spike backlash, shows rows of metallic spikes lining multiple branches of a tree in the neighborhood. “Now birds are not allowed in trees...?!” Garrett tweeted. “Has anyone seen this before? How is it allowed?!”
You’ve probably been in the presence of anti-bird spikes before and just not noticed. Typically installed on buildings, anti-bird spikes are used to deter birds from perching and nesting on window ledges or gutters and, presumably, pooping all up on a building or passers-by. However, putting them in trees—which is undeniably bird-centric territory—seems like a pretty extreme measure.
“There is a big problem with bird droppings around here,” one of the neighborhood’s residents told the Bristol Post. “They can really make a mess of cars, and for some reason [birds] do seem to congregate around this area.” The resident said the neighborhood had tried to dissuade the birds in other ways, like placing wooden bird figurines in the trees to try to scare them off. Nevertheless, the bird poop persisted. “The spikes are solely to protect the cars,” the resident said, “there is no other reason.”
However, that’s precisely why some people think the neighborhood’s anti-bird spikes are unnecessary. Clifton, the Brighton neighborhood, is home to many wealthier residents and, as the Independent reports, “a number of expensive BMWs and Audis.”
The idea of rich people getting up in arms about bird poop on their Beemers was a little too on the nose for many who responded to Garrett’s tweet, calling the spikes everything from “awful” to straight-up “idiotic”.
According to local political Paula O’Rourke, the aggressively “anti-bird” move may technically be legal because spikes are installed on trees that fall on private property. “I’m aware that the landowner might be legally within their rights to do this to the trees as they seem to be on private land,” O’Rourke told the Bristol Post, “However, I will be looking into this at the council," she said.
“Whether allowed or not though, it looks awful and it’s a shame to see trees being literally made uninhabitable to birds,” O’Rourke continued, “presumably for the sake of car parking.” To that the internet gave a resounding, “YUP.”
Hillcrest Estate Management, which oversees the Clifton neighborhood, told BBC the spikes were installed in 2014 after other measures failed to cease the feces. “Bird detritus can cause permanent damage to the paintwork on cars if not removed promptly,” the firm said, “and the worst affected leaseholders wanted action taken to try and improve the situation.”
Anti-bird spikes have previously been received criticism for being potentially inhumane to birds. Residents of Clifton pointed out that there are surrounding trees without spikes where birds can still perch. However, many still view the measure as “absurd” as well as destructive to nature.
Unfortunately, people have used spikes to deter more than just birds. Cities across the world have taken to installing “anti-homeless spikes” to prevent people from sleeping and sitting near buildings and on streets.
If anti-bird spikes made you upset, “anti-people” spikes probably shouldn’t sit well with you either. Perhaps this should all be a reminder that we should be making space for all species, humans most certainly included, rather than spikes.