How to Get Rid of Nuisance Birds
At first glance, it may seem impossible for birds to qualify as nuisance. Birds enrich our lives with their cheerful songs and colorful plumage. Since the earliest of times, humans have watched birds soaring on the wind and longed for the same exhilarating freedom of flight. While the great majority of bird species do not interfere with humans in a way that causes conflict, there are circumstances in which birds cause problems in residential and commercial settings.
Accumulations of birds create a large number of droppings. When deposited on the patio of an outdoor restaurant or along a pathway at the city park, the droppings cause unsightly and unsanitary conditions. Small birds sometimes nest in gutters, vents, and other openings in buildings. Birds often peck at gardens and fruit trees causing crop loss and damage. In some areas, such as beach areas, birds aggressively take human food seemingly from right out of their hands.
When birds and humans come into conflict, we must remember birds are only doing what comes naturally to them. Most people want to resolve the conflict with no harm to the birds; the goal of bird pest control is to entice the birds to nest someplace else.
Pest Management Professionals are trained and experienced in animal behavior and resolving conflicts between man and nature. Pest Management Professionals routinely trap rats in the attic, and they answer the call when raccoons and opossums invade your attic. Pest Control Companies have employees trained on ladder safety and navigating attic and crawl spaces, so nuisance wildlife control is a natural fit for many pest control companies. In addition to the state’s Pest Control License, some states require that anyone performing nuisance wildlife work have an additional certification as a Nuisance Control Wildlife Officer (NCWO), where other states recognize that the Pest Control license encompasses the material needed for wildlife control. Many pest control companies offer nuisance bird control services and other wildlife services.
Because of their migratory nature, many birds are protected by the federal government. The Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the killing, capture, trading, and selling of migratory birds. Non-native bird species are not protected under this federal law, and there are exceptions for birds that have been deemed a nuisance. Because they are non-native to the United States, feral Pigeons, European Starlings, and House Sparrows are not protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
Aside from the 3 bird species listed above, you should assume the bird you are dealing with is protected under this act. It is a federal crime to violate this act. However, as with all legislation, it is complicated by exceptions. The U.S. Department of the Interior grants very limited permits based upon depredations. If a protected bird is found to be damaging crops, injuring livestock, or causing a human health or safety risk, a permit may be issued that will allow you to remedy the situation. This permit is rarely granted with respect to homeowners and small business owners.
Further complicating the matter, blackbirds, cowbirds, crows, grackles, and magpies are protected under the Act, but you may control them without a permit when they are “causing serious injuries to agricultural or horticultural crops or to livestock feed; When they cause a health hazard or structural property damage” and in a few other limited situations. As you can see, the legislature allowed for some exceptions, but this area can be very confusing… and the consequences of misinterpreting the law can be severe.
- Pigeons – Pigeons are one of the most common birds found in the United States. Their populations have exponentially increased since their introduction to the United States as they have no natural predators. Pigeons have become quite comfortable living close to humans, feasting on our crumbs and trash and roosting in the niches of our buildings. On their own, pigeons are truly remarkable birds. They are incredibly intelligent and can fly an average of 50mph with short bursts of up to 90mph. With their extraordinary homing ability they have been known to find their way home from more than 1,000 miles away. Pigeons are one of the few birds that feed their babies milk, and they have been faithful messengers for millennia. Despite these remarkable characteristics, because of their large quantities, they are the most common nuisance bird. The homing trait that was so prized in years gone by, makes it impossible to simply “shoo” the pigeon away. Once pigeons have established their roost, they faithfully return, often much to our dismay. Pigeon feces carry diseases such as salmonella, cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis, and toxoplasmosis. They are also hosts for lice, mites, fleas, and ticks. Aside from the health risk, pigeon feces can damage the façade of buildings. Buildings constructed of limestone or a calciferous sandstone, often historic buildings, are most vulnerable to damage caused by pigeon droppings. Business owners, especially those that encourage or utilize outdoor spaces for their customer’s enjoyment, have a vested interest in controlling and discouraging pigeons from nesting near their space.
- European Starlings – European Starlings are the other main nuisance bird in the United States. Bird lore says that the European Starling was released in Central Park in 1860. A nature and Shakespeare enthusiast wanted to honor the Bard of Avon by having every bird mentioned in his works flying freely in Central Park. The 60 pairs of European Starlings originally released, survived the cold winter and their population exploded. They are aggressive and territorial and have displaced or killed many native songbirds. They travel in large flocks and their large numbers can overwhelm airports, parking lots, farms, parks, golf courses, and residential neighborhoods. The uric acid in their droppings can damage vehicles, buildings, stone, and plastics. The number one complaint about European Starlings is their affinity for building nests in gutters and drainage pipes. This often results in water backups and extensive water damage. They also favor exhaust vents and AC ductwork as nesting sites which creates a fire hazard and poor indoor air quality.
- House Sparrows – House Sparrows are another non-native bird that regularly comes into conflict with humans. Historians disagree on the first introduction of the House Sparrow to the United States, but a plausible theory is 8 pairs of House Sparrows were introduced in 1850 as a form of biological control to combat the destructive larvae of the linden moth. House Sparrow’s have since become an unwelcome house guests. House Sparrows routinely get into buildings, warehouses, grocery stores, big-box stores, and food processing plants. They build nests in these commercial facilities and proceed to drop their feces onto the commercial endeavor. Their droppings contaminate the food or property inside the facility potentially spreading disease and creating hazardous conditions. House Sparrows build relatively large nests in small enclosed areas such as house shutters, drainage pipes, building rafters, and metal siding. These nests often cause water backups and roof damage. The flammable nature of their nesting materials may present a fire risk as well.
If you are battling birds, there are a variety of options pest control companies use to resolve the issue. Each nuisance bird situation is unique, and often a combination of methods are utilized to get rid of the birds and keep them from coming back. Before you take any action against a bird, please take the time to positively identify the species of bird. If it is protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty and you are not operating under an exception, you may open yourself up to federal criminal liability. Professional Nuisance Wildlife Control Officers have the expertise and specialized tools to effectively remove birds if allowed, and prevent them from coming back.
An audio or visual bird deterrent is a product that relies upon the bird’s sense of hearing or sight and keeps birds from roosting, nesting, or otherwise frequenting the area. A visual bird deterrent may be as simple as a scarecrow placed in a field, or a statute of a large Great Horned Owl. You may have seen shimmering CDs hanging from fruit trees. Your neighbor is not showing their artsy side, they are likely trying to deter birds with unnatural flashes of light. If the birds are afraid to approach the tree, some of the fruit will be saved from the pecking of the birds.
Audio bird deterrents emit a species-specific distress signal. Audio bird deterrents should not be left on indefinitely. For them to be effective, the birds must relate the “danger call” to the behavior you are seeking to stop, such as landing on your roofline. Professional models allow the call to be changed on a regular basis so that the birds do not become accustomed to the recording and learn to ignore it. Birds have a good memory. If they hear the same bird, crying for help day after day after day, they learn it is not real and learn to ignore it.
For the homeowner, visual and audio bird deterrents are available in the form of many predators and reflective designs. These simple deterrents may decrease in effectiveness as nuisance birds learn that they are nothing to be feared.
For commercial purposes, a more permanent and professional-looking solution is necessary. Bird deterrent metal spikes are a permanent solution to nuisance birds. These spikes can be installed on common bird landing spots such as rooftop edges, ledges, and window sills. These bird spikes leave nowhere for the birds to land, much less build a nest and get comfortable. They are effective and offer long-term nuisance bird control, but many people consider them unsightly.
For commercial or residential properties concerned about the aesthetics of the bird spikes, bird deterrent gels may offer a solution. These gels are packaged and applied like caulk, but rather than sealing an opening, these products apply a sticky adhesive to the ledge or roofline. Except upon close inspection, these products are not visible. Birds find the surface covered with this sticky gel-like substance uncomfortable and if they land, do not stay long. Over time, they learn to not stop and perch on surfaces covered in this gel. These gels lose their effectiveness/stickiness over time, but regular application of the bird deterrent gel may be a discreet bid deterrent option.
Installing bird netting is also a common and highly effective method of removing nuisance birds. To offer maximum protection, bird netting should be installed by a professional Nuisance Wildlife Control Officer. Depending on the species of nuisance bird, different size mesh is offered. When properly installed in buildings, balconies, garages, barns, or airplane hangars, birds are humanely and effectively controlled. Birds simply can not access the ledge on which they would otherwise perch and nest. Bird netting is nearly invisible, and is strong and durable, providing years of effective bird control.
There are several chemical sprays that are registered by the EPA for repelling non-protected species of birds. These products are not harmful to the birds, they simply encourage them to go elsewhere. One popular product can be fogged in a general area, such as a golf course or airport, or sprayed directly on some crops. This product is made of grape seed extract and smells and tastes like grape soda. However, to birds, it tastes like pepper spray. It is a contact repellent, meaning the birds must inhale the chemical or ingest the chemical for them to leave the area. Another sprayable chemical bird repellent does not rely on the bird ingesting or inhaling the chemical. Rather, when sprayed the chemical leaves a sticky residue on tree branches and other exterior vegetations and interior beams and trusses of barns. Anywhere this product is sprayed becomes sticky to the point where birds prefer to nest elsewhere. If chemical sprays are used for bird control, they should be used in conjunction with other control measures.
In certain situations, the Pigeons, House Sparrows, or European Starlings must be trapped and removed from your home. Always remember that most species of birds are protected by federal law; it is a federal offense to trap a protected bird. However, once the bird is accurately identified, your Professional Pest Management Professional or Nuisance Wildlife Control Officer can trap and remove multiple birds at a time. Trapping and removal should be done in conjunction with the installation of physical barriers such as bird netting or bird spikes. Because of their homing instinct, trapping and removing pigeons is a pointless exercise unless you quickly install barriers.
Nuisance birds can cause big problems for businesses large and small. Airports, warehouses, golf courses, and family restaurants must figure out a way to keep birds from disturbing their business and endeavors. Although nuisance birds are not the result of an unsanitary environment, the best way to prevent nuisance birds from taking up residence is to actively deter and repel them as described above, and keep the outside area clean. Tightly cover and regularly clean trash cans. Never feed nor allow the birds to be fed at your home or business.
Commercial bird control requires a comprehensive plan and professional execution of that plan. The Nextgen Pest Solutions professionals have extensive nuisance bird experience. From birds in grocery stores and warehouses to birds nesting in residential gutters, we have the expertise to remove the nuisance birds and keep them away. Call today to schedule an inspection of your commercial facility or home.