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For the bird lime tree, see Pisonia umbellifera.

Birdlime or bird lime is an adhesive substance used in trapping birds. It is spread on a branch or twig, upon which a bird may land and be caught. Its use is illegal in many jurisdictions.


Historically, the substance has been prepared in various ways, and from various materials.

In South Africa, birdlime (called voëlent in Afrikaans) is prepared from local mistletoe fruits. A handful of ripe fruits is chewed until sticky, and the mass is then rubbed between the palms of the hands to form long and extremely sticky strands which are then coiled around small thin tree branches where birds perch.[1]

A popular form was made from holly bark, boiled for 10 to 12 hours. After the green coating is separated from the other, it is stored in a moist place for two weeks. It is then pounded into a thick paste, until no wood fibres remain, and washed in running water until no small specks appear. After fermenting for four or five days, during which it is frequently skimmed, the substance is mixed over a fire with a third part of nut oil. It is then ready for use.[citation needed]

Another popular form made in Asia is from the Ilex integra tree.[citation needed]

Birdlime from Damascus was supposed to be made of sebestens, their kernels being frequently found in it; this version was not able to endure frost or wet.[citation needed] That brought from Spain was said to have a bad odor.[citation needed] That of the Italians was made of mistletoe berries, heated, mixed with oil, as before; to make it water resistant, they added turpentine.[citation needed] It was said that the bark of the wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) made birdlime as good as the best.[citation needed]

Nathaniel Atcheson in his 1811 work On the Origin and Progress of the North-West Company of Canada with a history of the fur trade... mentions birdlime (p 14) as an important import commodity for use in the Canadian west in the late 18th century.

Legal status[edit]

In the Valencian region of Spain, birdlime (locally known as parany) is commonly used to capture the song thrush, which is a delicacy throughout Spain and is used in many local recipes. In spite of the EU's attempts to curb this practice, it is still tolerated in this region.[2][3][4]

Other uses[edit]

The 4th-century BC Greek writer Aeneas Tacticus recommends (34.1–2) birdlime be used as a substance which will prevent fires from burning wood or other combustible materials, when smeared upon their surfaces.

Birdlime was used in the manufacturing of British sticky bombs during World War II.[citation needed]

Other meanings[edit]

  • In modern times with the disuse of bird liming, the word "birdlime" is sometimes misunderstood and used wrongly to mean bird feces, from its appearance as white splashes.[citation needed]
  • "Birdlime" is also proverbially sticky, hence it may be used to refer to a "sticky-fingered person" or some such.[citation needed]
  • The Cockney rhyming slang "doing bird" (time spent in prison) is thought to come from "bird-lime", time.[citation needed]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al. 

External links[edit]