Do Birds Poop on Red Cars More?

Updated on March 5, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Scientist and author, Beth enjoys living life in the slow lane. She takes time to enjoy the little things in life.

European Herring Gull defecating in mid flight.
European Herring Gull defecating in mid flight. | Source

My Favorite Car Color is Red

First, I must declare an interest, I love red cars! My current car is red, my last car and the one before that were red too. So, I have personal experience of trying to clean bird droppings off my car.

Like many people I was convinced that my red vehicle attracted far more bird droppings than those of my neighbors. Friends who own white cars disagree. They believe it is their shiny, clean, white cars that get dive-bombed the most. But now, a research study concludes that red cars get more bird poop than other colors.

Survey of Bird Poop Deposits And Red Cars

A UK auto-parts company, Halfords, carried out research to see if the color of a car affects how many times birds defaced its bodywork. They aimed to find out if some pigments attract more droppings from our feathered friends than others.

The cities of Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow were surveyed. These areas give a representative spread of UK bird populations from the south to the north. In total 1,140 cars were examined for bird excrement by researchers over two consecutive days in June 2012.

Results of Halfords Survey

Color of Car Paintwork
% of Cars After 2 Days With Bird Droppings
Red
18%
Blue
14%
Black
11%
White
7%
Gray/ Silver
3%
Green
1%

Study Shows Red Cars Get Most Excrement

The detailed results of the research are shown in the table above. The key findings were that 18% of the red cars had bird droppings on them after two days. The next most popular car color was blue, with 14% of blue cars having bird poop on them. The least popular color (as far as the dive-bombing birds were concerned) was green, with only 1% of these cars being affected after two days.

Whoa! Enough of the dry statistics. The survey claims that the results prove that red cars attract the most bird poop; but is this really true?

Removing poop from a car's paintwork is easy with a single use bird dropping wipe.
Removing poop from a car's paintwork is easy with a single use bird dropping wipe. | Source

Cost of Damaged Car Paintwork

The summary of the research was given to the media as a press release and Halfords helpfully included advice about the importance of cleaning off bird droppings quickly. Halfords estimate the cost to British motorists of damage caused by bird droppings is £57 million per year (US $78 million). Cynics may wonder if the fact that Halfords sells appropriate cleaning materials was linked to their eagerness to spread the results of their research.

However, damage caused by bird poop to car paintwork is a genuine problem and I recommend Autoglym Single Use Bird Dropping Wipes. For just a few dollars these are a good standby. They are sealed in handy single use packs so that they can be kept unopened until needed.

Red Cars Attract the Most Bird Poop: Or Do They?

True or False: Can You Believe the Results?

This research study was a light-hearted way of getting a marketing message across, not a scientific investigation. You shouldn’t choose the color of your next car based on its findings. Fresh media stories continue to appear claiming that red cars definitely attract more dive-bombing by birds then other colors. These are fake news stories. They're published by writers who don’t understand the importance of sampling size and objective research.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) say that where you park your car is of greater importance than the color of your car. For example, if you park your car under a tree in the evening beneath roosting birds, it is more than likely that your car will have bird poop on it by the morning.

The BTO carried out its own research into the effect of bird droppings on cars. They found that pigeon droppings cause greater damage to car paintwork than those of seagulls. This is due to the fact that pigeons are seed-eating birds. Their poop is grainier and rougher in texture than those of seagulls which are fish eaters. The excreta from seed eating birds therefore literally scratches your car paintwork. Even more reason to clean it off as quickly as possible.

Car covered in bird droppings .... and the car is black!
Car covered in bird droppings .... and the car is black! | Source

Maybe Birds Are Not the Whole Story?

There’s another theory about what actually causes the damage to car paint that motorists blame on bird poop. According to car care products manufacturer AutoGlym of Letchworth, UK, it is the car owners themselves that are the real culprits. They say that cars which are waxed and polished are better protected against bird droppings.

AutoGlym tried out a variety of different bird poop substitutes on car paint. They varied the acid content and also the grain to liquid ratio. They found that the softness of the paint (which can be affected by high sunshine temperatures) influenced how easy or difficult it was to remove the poop without causing long-term damage. They concluded that motorists need to take better care of their cars and clean and polish them on a regular basis.

How to Remove Bird Droppings From Car Paintwork

Would I (and Should You) Buy A Red Car Again?

Other things being equal (like price and fuel consumption), I would happily buy another red car in the future. I try not to park under trees or bridges whatever color car I'm driving. Magpies are the worst offenders where I live. They gorge themselves on free food that folk leave lying around (in overflowing bins and in the gutter) and then they fly over the nearest parked cars with the inevitable result.

I think the place you park your car is of greater importance than its color. However if you don’t agree, then you could try a small experiment. Get a friend with a different color car to park next to yours for 24 hours and see if there’s any difference in the hit rates from birds, but make sure over-hanging trees don’t skew the result.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 months ago from Sunny Florida

    I didn't know about this research and I love red cars also. We have a darker red car right not and I love it. We had quite a bit of bird poop on our windshied recently, so I guess the bird missed the spot.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    3 months ago from UK

    I hadn't heard of this research. We always try to park away from trees if possible to avoid the bitd issue.

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