Do Red Cars Get the Most Bird Poop?

Updated on April 5, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes articles on a wide variety of subjects.

A white Dodge Charger covered in bird poop.
A white Dodge Charger covered in bird poop. | Source

Survey Shows Red Cars Get The Most Poop

A specialist UK auto-parts retailer, Halfords, wanted to see whether the color of a car affects how many times birds defecate onto a car’s bodywork. The large urban areas of Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow were chosen in order to get a good geographical spread across the UK. In total 1,140 cars were examined by researchers over two consecutive days in June 2012.

The results of the survey are shown below. The key findings were that 18% of the red cars had bird droppings on them after two days. The next most popular car color with the birds 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.

Color of car paintwork
% of cars after 2 days with bird droppings
Gray/ Silver
Halfords Car Paintwork and Bird Droppings Survey 2012
European Herring Gull caught in the act of defecating mid flight.
European Herring Gull caught in the act of defecating mid flight. | Source

Has Halfords Really Proved That Red Cars Are Poop Magnets?

First I must declare an interest, I love red cars! My last car was red and the one before that was too. So I have personal experience of trying to clean off bird droppings from my car. The only reason my current car isn’t red is because there were none available at the right price when I bought it.

Like many other people I was convinced my red car attracted far more bird droppings than those of my neighbors. However, people who own white cars believe their cars are dive-bombed more often than mine. So does Halfords' study really prove that red cars are pooped on more often than other colors?

A bright red MG sports car in Paris, France.
A bright red MG sports car in Paris, France. | Source

Red is an emotional color.

The color red enhances our physical reactions because it is seen as a danger cue.

It increases a person’s heartbeat and their breathing rate.

— Andrew Elliot, University of Rochester, and Henk Aars, Utrecht University

Red Cars Attract the Most Bird Poop: True or False?

High Cost of Repairing Damaged Paintwork

Halfords concluded that damage caused by bird droppings to British motorists is around £57 million per year (US $89 million).

A media press release was issued and Halfords included advice about the importance of cleaning off bird droppings quickly. Cynics may be tempted to ask if the fact that Halfords sells appropriate cleaning materials was linked to their eagerness to spread the results of their research.

The Story Goes Viral

June 2012 must have been a slow news month for the international press as the story went viral. It was picked up and covered by news agencies across North America, Australasia, Europe and beyond.

Apart from being a light-hearted way of getting a marketing message across, the research was not conducted with any scientific rigor. A few people have pointed this out and said that no credence should be given to the results of this survey. However, they have been largely ignored and new stories continue to appear every week in both online and offline media claiming that red cars definitely attract more dive-bombing by birds then other colors.

Could this turn out to be a shaggy dog story?
Could this turn out to be a shaggy dog story? | Source

Bird deposits contain a high amount of uric acid with a pH level somewhere between 3 and 4.5, which is quite acidic. Put simply, bird poop on a car can slowly eat your car out!

Uric acid is corrosive, and it quickly eats the wax coating or paint sealant and cuts through the paint.

For that reason, never let the poop stay too long on your car if you don’t want it to cost you a lot of pennies in the painting shop.


The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) says that in its view, 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 likely to result in your car having bird droppings on it by the morning.

The BTO has carried out its own research into the effect of bird droppings on cars. They discovered that pigeon droppings cause greater damage to car paintwork than those of seagulls do. 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 Droppings .... and the Car is Blue!

Red Cars

Will you buy a red car next time?

See results

What Color Car Will You Buy Next Time?

Whatever color car you choose, there will be some occasions when you find that birds have defecated on it. The key is to clean it off as soon as possible so that the ammonia in the droppings does not have time to damage your car’s paintwork.

The simplest way to remove bird poop is to first dampen the droppings with a water hose or bucket. Then using a sponge or towel, rub away the softened damp bird excrement. Do not be tempted to try to speed up the process by using a scouring pad. That way you will definitely mark your car’s paintwork.

How to Remove Bird Droppings From Car Paintwork

Perhaps Birds Are Not the Whole Story?

There is another theory about what actually causes the damage to car paint that is currently blamed by motorists 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 researchers 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.

It comes as no surprise to learn that AutoGlym makes the exact wax products that are required to achieve this fight-back against aerial hits. You should draw your own conclusions about the objectivity of this “research”.

It's not just birds that can cause damage to a car's paintwork.
It's not just birds that can cause damage to a car's paintwork. | Source

How Can You Stop Birds From Pooping On Your Car?

If you have a covered parking space or garage, then use it. This is the best defense against low-flying bird poop. Otherwise, try to park away from trees and tall buildings that are used by birds as perches.

In urban areas you may have no choice about where to park, so regular cleaning and maintenance of your car will help limit the damage to your paintwork if you do score a direct hit.

Waxing and polishing your car provides a protective barrier against acidic bird excreta. The longer bird droppings are left on your car, the more damage they will cause. So check your car's paintwork regularly, and remove any poop as soon as you notice it.


Submit a Comment

  • word55 profile image

    Word 4 years ago from Chicago

    Wow, what a subject. Glad I park my vehicle on average in a garage. Thanks for all the info.

  • profile image

    calculus-geometry 4 years ago

    Ha ha, my car is white. I'm afraid I can't tell if it gets more or less bird-squirt than average.

  • angryelf profile image

    angryelf 4 years ago from Tennessee

    This is pretty cool! I sure am glad my car is black. I guess I see it the way birds do... red vehicles are eyesores LOL. However, I park mine under a tree, so you can guess how bad that can get at times! Congrats! Great Hub!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Interesting, and congrats on HOTD!

    I recently had a spate of bird-doo on my cream-colored car, and I must say, it think it has more to do with where it's parked. At the time, it was in our carport, which is open on both ends, with open tubular framework on which the small birds love to perch out of the wind and sun.

    Since moving that car out of the carport, and trading places with the truck, (which leaks, so do not want it out in the rainy season), I've noticed very few droppings (the truck is brown); but also far fewer birds out and about.

    So, I think that both season and location are more closely correlated, in my experience. You did a great job of researching, and I enjoyed the article. Feel sorry for the poor bloke who owns that blue car!

    Voted up and interesting!

  • W1totalk profile image

    W1totalk 4 years ago

    This is a great, well researched article. I have a red car. I have been subject to some bird pooping but have not had the pummeling yet.

  • Randy Godwin profile image

    Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

    Ha! I had a friend who bought a beautiful white Mercedes and parked it outside his house under a pecan tree. Little did he know his neighbors peacock and peafowl favored a limb over the car to perch for the night. What a mess!! lol! Enjoyed the read and congrats on HOTD.


  • KoraleeP profile image

    Koralee Phillips 4 years ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

    Interesting article topic :). I agree that where you park your car has more to do with what color it is. Where I live, in Canada, I haven't had problems with bird poop wrecking my paint. But this past summer, my friend had a big problem with droppings when she parked her grey Volkswagen under a certain tree on her street.

  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

    Beth Eaglescliffe 4 years ago from UK

    I think the place you park your car is going to be of greater importance than its color. However you could always try a small experiment. Get a friend with a different color car to park next to yours for 24 hours and see if there is any difference in the hit rates from birds.

  • Rochelle Frank profile image

    Rochelle Frank 4 years ago from California Gold Country

    I wonder if there is a difference in different geographical areas. We have many kinds of birds here and my silver /grey car is decorated regularly. Interesting hub, because anyone who has ever had a car has experienced the phenomenon.

  • alancaster149 profile image

    Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

    Sorry, I called you Ethel in that comment. confusing you with somebody else. Humble apologies.

    We get a lot of magpies here as well, mostly in summer, but the biggest offenders are the feral pigeons. We have river gulls, but they tend to gravitate to Wanstead Park's big Heronry Pond.

  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

    Beth Eaglescliffe 4 years ago from UK

    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 kindly people leave lying around (in overflowing bins and in the gutter) and then they fly over the nearest parked cars with the inevitable result.

  • alancaster149 profile image

    Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

    Well Ethel, this another ground-breaker.

    However - another category needs to be added to the poll: 'are you likely to get a red car next time round?'

    My first SWB Land Rover was Masai Red (by my request to the workshop working on the vehicle when they converted it from 'hard-top' (van) to estate-type. Second was a Dulux green (the man who worked on it found the Land Rover bronze-green too expensive so he went for the nearest shade in a tin), the third was Land Rover factory blue, the fourth Epsom green (Discovery colours are different from the run-of-the-mill). So the next - probably last - will be red again.

    Problem? I've found bird lime comes off with a liberal dose of water and a thick rag. Not rain, plain ordinary tap or bottled water. Everywhere I've been and where I live there are trees and bridges. A dark blue car left under one of the railway bridges down the road was covered in bird lime from the pigeons that roost there. It had been abandoned, or the owner gagged at the thought of paying for it to be cleaned! Anyway it had been there for months before it was moved. There's another bridge around the corner this way (around the next corner on the other side it's 'No parking' anyway), and nobody likes having to park there either.

    Nearly everywhere I've stayed there are trees or lamp posts, except at the Lion Inn on Blakey Rigg near Castleton on the Moors.

    Best just to keep a two litre bottle of water on board!