New research from the UK reveals some facts that may influence your next car purchase. Birds, it seems, deposit their droppings much more frequently on some car colours than others.
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The study, which looked at more than 1,000 cars in five English cities, found that, by a wide margin, red was the car colour bird enjoyed dumping on most. (Watch out, Lawrence Stroll.) Blue and black were also commonly sought by loose-boweled avians (14 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively). The safest colours, in descending order of defecatory danger, were white, grey/silver, and green.
There's no hard science to explain the birds' preference, unfortunately, although anecdotal theories abound. Some commenters to UK online forums believe that red alarms birds as it does bulls, signifying danger and provoking attack. Others suggested that blue confuses birds, making them think they're flying over (extremely small?) bodies of water. Still others proposed that the most lustrous a colour, the likelier it was to attract bird poop. The deeper colours are more reflective, runs the theory; what the bird sees (and attacks) is its own reflection, swooping from below.
The droppings and the damage done
However the droppings got on your car, it's important you clean them off as quickly as possible, especially in summer. Your father probably told you it's the acid in bird poop that ruins your paint job. He was half right. Left on, the droppings will mar your paint, but it's graininess, not acidity, that gets you in the end.
The reason? When the sun warms a car's paint, its lacquer softens and expands. That same heat rapidly dries droppings on its surface. Later, as the paint cools, the lacquer contracts and hardens around the bird dropping. The area produces a duller reflection than the unblemished paint, and the grainier the dropping, the worse the damage.
Do not get the bird poop in your mouth
The best way to remove the droppings is with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water. A note of warning: Wear gloves or wash your hands carefully after you clean your car. The droppings of pigeons, geese, starlings, seagulls, and house sparrows carry some 60 diseases that can be transmitted to human. Here's a handful of the more common ones, courtesy of Bird X Inc.:
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-- Histoplasmosis is a respiratory disease that may be fatal. It results from a fungus growing in dried bird droppings.
-- Candidiasis is a yeast or fungus infection spread by pigeons. The disease affects the skin, the mouth, the respiratory system, the intestines and the urogenital tract, especially the vagina. It is a growing problem for women, causing itching, pain and discharge.
-- Cryptococcosis is caused by yeast found in the intestinal tract of pigeons and starlings. The illness often begins as a pulmonary disease and may later affect the central nervous system. Since attics, cupolas, ledges, schools, offices, warehouses, mills, barns, park buildings, signs, etc. are typical roosting and nesting sites, the fungus is apt to found in these areas.
-- St. Louis Encephalitis, an inflammation of the nervous system, usually causes drowsiness, headache and fever. It may even result in paralysis, coma or death. St. Louis encephalitis occurs in all age groups, but is especially fatal to persons over age 60. The disease is spread by mosquitoes which have fed on infected house sparrow, pigeons and house finches carrying the Group B virus responsible for St. Louis encephalitis.
-- Salmonellosis often occurs as "food poisoning" and can be traced to pigeons, starlings and sparrows. The disease bacteria are found in bird droppings; dust from droppings can be sucked through ventilators and air conditioners, contaminating food and cooking surfaces in restaurants, homes and food processing plants.
-- E.coli. Cattle carry E. coli 0157:H7. When birds peck on cow manure, the E. coli go right through the birds and the bird droppings can land on or in a food or water supply.
What about you? Noticed a correlation between colour and the frequency with which your car gets bombed?
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