Laser Focused On Pest Birds

A new laser technology is suited to keep away pest birds from flat roofs and open spaces.

By Heath Waldorf
From the August 2020 Issue

Everyone seems to have the quick answer or magic bullet for handling pest bird issues. Yet, even with the latest and greatest technologies that emerge in the field, success is still dependent on timing and a product’s inclusion in a comprehensive strategy. One new technology for addressing pest birds is focused on large flat rooftops that may have “green roofs” or solar arrays, and for reducing activity in wide open spaces. The future is here—solar-powered high intensity invisible lasers.

As a broad label, laser boxes have been sold by bird control product manufacturers for a number of years. Those fixed in place systems project what looks like a Christmas display that we see on people’s homes—only moving more rapidly and less in a pattern. The units were intended as a tool to annoy pest birds out of nighttime and indoor roosts. Daytime use for small garden plots was limited in range and effectiveness.

pest birds
(Photo: Heath Waldorf)

Like many products in the pest control industry, the science behind the new crop of lasers came from investment in agriculture. These high-powered lasers were designed to be visible to birds even on the brightest of days and to protect fruit crops, vineyards, and other products. Rather than fixed in place and projecting into a particular area, the lasers emanate from a computer programmed turreted device that rotates and raises/lowers to actively patrol a targeted area (see photo above).

As with a laser pointer, people do not see the beam of the laser—only the spot where it lands. But based on the frequency of UV light that these lasers operate on, birds can see the entirety of the beam. So, when the spot at the end of the beam that people see is approaching the birds, they perceive a solid object coming at them which activates their fear/flight response and disperses small and large flocks alike. Now imagine if this beam were programmed to keep moving around in a particular area.

An alternative to the mounted automated devices, these new high-powered lasers are available as handheld units as well, to be used by a trained operator for applications where people may be present and manual control over the device is prudent for safety.

For now, the computerized models follow an app-programmed path based on where bird activity is likely. It does not have the capability to actively pursue flocks of birds. Therefore, supplementing the auto-unit with a handheld by adding some human responsiveness to the birds’ activity has advantages.

As innovative as these systems are, even if used in accordance with functional specifications, there is no guarantee of success as the only tool utilized. For example, starting use of a laser system after pest birds have habituated to the site will have diminished effect.

  • If birds have lived at a site (on a rooftop) for multiple years, even a quality harassment program using laser systems will call for other measures.
  • If not used properly at the right times of day/of year based on target species behavior, such as feeding time or nesting season, laser systems will not be sufficiently effective to justify the cost.

Birds’ entire livelihood is about food, sun, and shelter. There is a reason they are at a site, and even the most high-tech and high-power system may be limited in its effectiveness. It is essential to take a long-term approach. Look at the situation from a mitigation perspective rather than reactionary. Here’s your prescription for bird control on buildings:

Be proactive. The more you can do to mitigate the risk of a problem, the more you save in time and money later. Even a single pair of geese can be a liability.

Solve the right problem. Be conscious of environmental considerations that contribute to the site’ s desirability.

Respond quickly. The longer the problem persists, the more entrenched birds become.

Define measures of success. Monitor results. It is unrealistic to say that a bird will never fly by or land on a building, but if the number of complaints, cleanup costs, or risk of a regulatory problem go down, then you will have achieved a satisfactory result.

bird controlWaldorf is an independent bird control expert at Bird Control Advisory. He has more than 17 years of experience as a consultant and design/build supply and install contractor specifically for preventing and solving bird control problems at large and small facilities.

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