According to reporting by the Guardian, an estimated 6.1 billion kilos of glyphosate-based weed killers were sprayed across gardens and fields worldwide between 2005 and 2014.

Indeed, weed killer has become a staple gardening tool in both residential and commercial properties to maintain outdoor spaces. However, the use of these chemicals poses a threat to wildlife, including birds.

So, does weed killer harm birds, and are there any wildlife-friendly solutions available?

Keep reading to learn more.

How does weed killer affect wildlife?

In 2020, the EPA released a statement that glyphosate does not pose a risk to humans as long as it is used according to directions, but does this mean wildlife is safe?

Weed killers, also referred to as herbicides, contain active ingredients such as glyphosate, which effectively target and eliminate unwanted wild plants like dandelions, crabgrass and clover.

However, while these chemicals quickly get to work effectively eradicating weeds, they can have a detrimental effect on the surrounding wildlife and ecosystems.

The key areas in which wildlife is seriously impacted by weed kill are the following:


Many weed killer compounds are highly toxic to a range of living organisms, including birds. Wildlife that ingests weed killer that has been sprayed onto plants or soil can be seriously harmed or even killed.

According to Birmingham University, research into the impacts of weedkiller on wildlife found that even at approved regulatory levels, weedkiller caused embryonic development failure, significant DNA damage, and also interfered with the animals’ metabolism and gut function.

Habitat changes

Another key way wildlife is affected by weed killer is the depletion of vegetation and reduced food sources that ultimately alter the existing ecosystem.

Wildlife, including birds, heavily rely on vegetation for foraging, nesting and shelter and may lose their habitat and fail to reproduce as a result.

Food chain disruption

For many years, it has been speculated that traditional weed killers that use glyphosate have a detrimental impact on the food chain.

Research has shown that glyphosate residues can remain in water and soil for several months, maybe even years, meaning they have the potential to build up to higher levels in the environment with each use.

As plant species diminish and water and soil are poisoned, more species will see a reduction in populations, directly impacting crucial ecological interactions.

Can weed killing products kill birds?

So, does weed killer harm birds? Yes, weed killer products can not only harm bird species but also cause death.

While birds being killed by weed killers from ingestion is less common when compared to other wildlife, regular exposure to these products can still have a severe effect on their health and reproduction.

Certain weed killer ingredients, like glyphosate and diflufenican, are toxic and have been shown to be harmful to birds, with documented cases of poisoning and reproductive issues in various species.

However, directly ingesting weed killer from vegetation is not the only way weed killer products can kill and harm birds; sprayed particles transported in the air can also expose species to these toxic chemicals.

Is there a weed killer that is safe for birds?

In recent years, a number of bird, wildlife and child-safe weed killers have been developed with alternative formulations that exclude glyphosate.

These products are not only less toxic, but also promote more environment-friendly application techniques that are designed to minimise interactions with the surrounding area and prevent harm to wildlife.

Organic herbicides derived from naturally occurring compounds such as citrus, vinegar, or corn gluten have helped to create more eco-friendly alternatives. These natural products tend to break down quicker and reduce the risk of residual toxicity in water and soil.

As we will discuss, there is also the option of using integrated weed management strategies such as removing weeds by hand, mulching, or using mechanical weed removal tools to reduce the need for weed killers overall.

How can I kill weeds without harming birds?

Whether you’re seeking bird-friendly weed control solutions for your home or a commercial address, there are a number of alternatives to traditional weed killers.

Manual removal

The first and most obvious alternative is to manually remove weeds by hand or with handheld tools, as this minimises disturbance to surrounding wildlife and ecosystems. This method is time consuming, but for the more eco-conscious individual, it is the best option.

Boiled water

Another tried and tested method of weed removal is to pour boiling water or use a steam wand to kill weeds effectively. This method denatures plant cells without leaving any harmful chemical residue but can be time consuming.


Like all vegetation, weeds need sunlight and moisture-rich soil to grow, which is why applying organic mulch such as wood chips can help suppress their growth. Not only is this beneficial to the environment, as it provides a rich environment for insects, but it also prevents the need to apply harmful chemicals.

Each of these weed control methods ensures the preservation of the surrounding avian population whilst protecting your local environment from harmful weed killers.

Get in touch

If you are currently dealing with a growing bird infestation on your property and are concerned about the effects of weed killer on the population, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

It’s vital that you manage these birds in a safe and controlled manner in accordance with UK laws, which protect all avian species and wildlife.

With more than a quarter of a century of experience in the field, our trained technicians specialise in bird control solutions throughout the North West of England and across the UK.

If you have concerns about birds nesting on your property and would like advice and assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today by dialling 0151 345 6854 or email us at

Our team is more than happy to advise on the best course of action.