Facility Retrofit: Eradicating Bird Mess

By Facility Executive Staff
from the July/August 2015 issue

The DeTour Reef Light foundation, resting in 23’ of water, is a crib style concrete 20′ high, 60′ square base that supports the reinforced concrete/steel Classical Revival style square building. (Photo: Hallie Wilson)


The DeTour Reef Lighthouse in Michigan’s Lake Huron found a tool to keep away pest seagulls.

Built in 1931, the 83′ tall lighthouse located one mile offshore at the mouth of the St. Mary’s River in Lake Huron has been restored and preserved since 1998 by the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS), a volunteer-based, non-profit 501c3 organization.

David J. Bardsley, director and treasurer of the Society, and co-chair of the Keeper Program, is responsible for ensuring the facilities are kept clean and safe.

What were the motivating factors and goals for this project?

Seagulls had become a real problem. After spending untold hours and dollars on reconstruction efforts for the Classical Revival-style structure, it was horrible to find it covered in bird mess every day; not only bird droppings and feathers, but the remains of their lunch—fish parts, skeletons, and crayfish pieces.

We run a charter boat service to take people out to the light, and having the place look and smell bad isn’t something any of us would accept. We’d spend all this money to fix up the place; then people went there and didn’t want to walk around in seagull gunk.

What problems were you encountering before this retrofit?

Before the lighthouse Keepers found a solution, cleaning bird droppings was a regular and time-consuming chore. (Photo: DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society)

Volunteers, members, and visitors all benefit from a clean space, but the amount of work it used to take to keep the lighthouse clean of the mess was challenging to say the least.

Before installing the BirdXPeller PRO on the docks in the summer of 2010, our volunteers—members of the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society’s Keepers Program (Keepers)—were soaking the seagull messes down with a pressure washer. That was a four to five hour job with three people; it involved big, stiff brushes and a lot of hard work.

The lighthouse keepers are the ones who really benefitted the most from the unit. They are the ones who had to scrub the decks and get their hands dirty. We have an awful lot of keepers who love Bird-X!

One Keeper stated, “In so many ways [the unit] has decreased work and increased the quality of the lighthouse stay.” Another has said, “Those who have never been here before will never know the miracle of it. Those who have been here before, rejoice! And never forget our fight against the seagulls. The battle is won!”

How did you research the options? And how did you arrive at the final decision?

Located on one corner of the lighthouse dock, this BirdXPeller PRO is instrumental in discouraging seagulls from landing. (Photo: DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society)

We must have tried everything before turning to Bird-X. We tried rubber snakes. We tried owls. We tried hanging CDs from strings so they’d reflect the sun and annoy them. Nothing worked. Seagulls are drawn to land, and that far out it is an extremely attractive place to stop.

Clif Haley, one of our directors, recommended the BirdXPeller PRO, which he had used on the dock in front of his own house. We decided to give it a try, and were shocked it worked so well.

What have the results been?

Initially back in 2010-11 it was 100% successful. The real trick to this device is keeping the birds guessing. So, whenever birds did start to come back, we’d change the settings as Bird-X recommends—which are fully programmable, to keep the sounds randomized and varied. If you don’t keep on top of that, the birds eventually get used to the sounds, so maintaining that element is important. Currently we only run the unit at night as we don’t want it on a lot, and are also adding an extension speaker to better treat a side of the structure that needs more coverage.

We still use the same unit today and with a few alterations, additions, and keeping things creative, we have managed to have continued success with the BirdXPeller PRO. Our Keepers can focus on other tasks now. They work so hard to keep everything operating and really are responsible for making sure the place runs smoothly, and there are so many better uses for their time than having to clean up bird mess!

Visit the DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society (DRLPS) website. For more information from Bird-X, Inc., visit www.bird-x.com.