By Tim Husen, Ph.D., BCE
From the August 2017 Issue
Not all birds sing the same tune. Some of our flying friends make nice additions to gardens as they splash in fountains or nest in trees, but on a commercial property, these animals often can peck away at the health of the property, level of sanitation, and the facility manager’s nerves. When facility management finds pest birds on a property, it could be time to get these nuisances to fly the coop.
Bird droppings can corrode many building materials, clog gutters, discolor paint, ruin cloth awnings, and even short out electrical equipment. Birds also can threaten the health of facility occupants. Bird droppings and bird mites have been known to carry more than 60 diseases and to spread microorganisms that cause lung disease, toxoplasmosis, or bird flu. Bird feathers also can cause respiratory problems in sensitive individuals.
To manage pest birds, the first step is to identify the species present on the site. Pest birds routinely found on commercial properties include pigeons, sparrows and starlings—none of which are protected by federal law. While not as common, geese also pester commercial sites, and during nesting season they can become territorial and aggressive.
If birds are becoming unwanted regulars at a facility, it’s important to observe their behavior. Depending on their level of attachment, birds can be increasingly difficult to remove. There are four levels of attachment, and at each stage, birds center more of their life around the property:
- Socializing: Birds simply gather to rest and communicate.
- Feeding: Birds have found food and water and use the property for meals.
- Roosting: Birds also have found shelter and are spending the night.
- Nesting: Birds are reproducing and have made the property their permanent home.
When socializing or feeding, birds might be seen often on ledges or light posts. For roosting and nesting, they will move to protected areas, like empty spaces or voids, garages, and beneath overhangs. Either way, pest birds will congregate around sources of food, so it is important to keep sanitation practices in mind when implementing a plan.
Developing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy that emphasizes non-chemical solutions is critical to controlling bird populations. Depending on the behavior that has been observed, there are three techniques at facility managers’ disposal—repellents, relocation, and exclusion.
Repellents make a building and the surrounding property uncomfortable for birds that are socializing and feeding. These repellents are not fatal to the birds but will make the property less attractive to them. Common bird repellents include:
- liquid products that irritate the birds, eliciting an aversive response to the area;
- gel that makes birds feel like their feet are stuck to the ground;
- electronic repellent that administers a slight shock upon landing; or
- spikes along the roof to eliminate attractive perching locations.
Relocation is needed when bird pressure escalates to the point that repellents are no longer effective. To prevent birds from roosting or nesting, a pest management provider can trap the animals with mist netting or glue boards. The birds can then be removed safely and transported to a new location.
Exclusion techniques are needed when a building’s structure creates a suitable environment for birds and when bird pressure is high. These solutions help prevent or exclude birds from using the building at all and can involve physically blocking areas with netting.
Controlling wild bird populations can be difficult, and it’s important birds aren’t harmed during the process. For effective bird control, facility managers should take a proactive approach and assess sites for potential hot spots and weak points before there is a problem. If pest birds are a problem, a good strategy is to contact a pest management provider to explore potential solutions.
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