Birds Pecking the Mortar between the Bricks in a House Wall

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Non Bio
Staff member
Jan 5, 2001
Way on Down South, London Town
Has anyone heard of this before? I've searched online and it's a real thing. It is not for insects. It has nothing to do with insects. They do it for the grit to help digestion, or sometimes for calcium for stronger eggshells.

House Sparrows keep attacking the back wall of my house near to the door, and there is hardly any cement left in some places. We've actually seen them doing it, always in the same place. It is from the ground up to waist height, and more near the corners.

We've had that wall pointed once before, and only now do I understand why it was necessary. I don't want to hurt the birds, so no netting or poisons, or other chemicals, but it needs to be stopped. Unfortunately the RSPB advice link is broken/ has been removed, and the other advice I've found is mostly unhelpful. Some suggestions are windsocks, pinwheels, helium balloons (shiny, bright Mylar balloons are especially effective), strips of aluminum foil, or reflective tape, but I think those suggestions are impracticable where the problem is. Other people leave out grit or powdered eggshell on bird tables, but I feel that will only encourage them further.

We stopped feeding the birds in the summer because it was encouraging rats and squirrels. There was plenty of berries and fruit this year, and the neighbours feed them anyway. Maybe if we put the food out again they might stop. I'm going to try that today. I like that we have them living in the hedges, and there is water for them in a pond and a birdbath. I can accept the Foxes digging holes under and through the fences, but draw the line at having holes in walls.

People say they have spent thousands on pointing and rendering walls, only to have to do it all again. Others have painted the walls.

Has anyone any other suggestions? Cheap and non-lethal?
Yes knew it was for the grit. My grandmother's budgie strips the sand off the sandpaper in his cage. I would personally buy grit and leave it out for them and hope they go for the easier option rather than peck it out of the walls. Put it near where they're doing it.
It doesn’t have to poison the birds just something to deter them. My next door neighbour had masonry bees causing havoc with the mortar in his walls - year after year.

Finally he included a small amount of creosote in the mortar mix. It wasn’t enough to discolour the mortar or leave an aroma but seemed to cure the problem.

Not sure if it was legal or not.
Yes, they need grit, we used to give some grit to chickens when we kept them.
What about putting a small rockery in your garden? You could try getting the smallest pebbles you can find to fill in between the features. I have a bunch of sparrows roosting in my hedge and they're always down pecking away at the pebbles in my rockery (in between fighting with each other and stuffing their faces on fatballs and seeds).
It sounds like their environment is lacking any other source of grit or they wouldn't go to the effort. A small tub of budgie grit should do it. They need small grit in their crop to grind up their food. Crumbled egg shells is not a good idea, unless the egg was boiled, as it can pass on salmonella. Would be useful for protein and minerals but isn't a substitute for grit.
I thought you said the wall had been "painted". Would that be practical?
Someone said they had painted their wall. Yes, that would be practical, but I'm going to re-point the wall myself and see if they start again.

What about putting a small rockery in your garden?
It sounds like their environment is lacking any other source of grit

There are plenty of pebbles and gravel. Yes, I've seen bags of Budgie sand for £2.99 and bags of grit for bigger birds like Chickens. It is very fine sand that they are eating, and maybe that isn't available anywhere else nearby. I do think that if I left out a tray of sand, it would soon have Cat or Fox pooh in it. They also recommend changing the sand in Budgie cages every 6-9 days. That's probably because of disease spreading. Birdfeeders should be washed before refilling too. Avian Flu is widespread at the moment. So, I'll have a think about doing that or not. Thanks anyway.
If you pebble-dash the wall over the repointed joints, the aggregate finish is too big to be any use to the birds.
I re-pointed the wall, then I've glued on pressure treated sawn wooden planks and painted them black to match the lean to. This has the added advantage that I can now put hooks on it to hang up the yard brushes. Thanks for your help.

For a while, the birds still came looking for sand, but have now stopped.
And now you'll have the masonry bees squeezing under the wood and burrowing into the mortar...

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret...;)
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