This bird control expert says PMPs should never underestimate the ability of birds to get past whatever obstacles they install.
Jeff Kimmich began a successful career in pest management about 32 years ago when he formed Aardvark Pest Control in Phoenix. After l6 years, he sold his company to Terminix and decided to specialize in bird control and bee removal. He then started Arizona Wings N’ Stings, now known as Southwest Avian Solutions. “Over the years, our installers have completed more than 5,000 bird exclusion installation projects ranging from single-family homes to multi-story commercial buildings, freeway underpasses, and casinos in Arizona and Las Vegas,” he said.
Kimmich, whose company utilizes exclusion methods with long-lasting products to help rid structures of most pest birds, presented what he called a short course in “Bird Control 101,” at NPMA’s 2013 PestWorld in Phoenix. He provided basic, useful information to PMPs thinking about expanding or changing their service offerings.
Starting a bird control business is not easy, he said. “Initially you’ll go out and make mistakes, but if you learn from them and work diligently and smartly at it, you can do well.”
Never underestimate the ability of birds to get past whatever obstacles you install, he cautioned. “If you make one little mistake — if you don’t place spikes correctly, for example — pigeons will keep hammering that area and will eventually get through.”
Utilizing an IPM approach is important because to be effective you’ve got to know target birds, their biology and their habits, as well as the specific details of the site in question, he stated. “Carefully observe those birds and assess the area in order to understand what the real problem is,” he said. “Learn whether they are there to nest or to feed. It might be a simple problem and easy to solve, such as a next door neighbor feeding her dog and pigeons waiting for the dog to leave food for them. If that’s the case, you can ask the neighbor to put the dog food in a feeder.
“But problems aren’t always simple,” he added. “Be sure to communicate to your customer that the cost of your job is contingent on the complexity of the job. Avoid surprises.”
Having the proper bird control equipment and a van big enough to carry the tools is essential, he said. Key equipment includes ladders, burlap covers, pressure washers, traps, spikes, nets, scare devices, dozens and dozens of different types of screws and connectors, and safety harnesses. “It makes the job easier for your technicians. Bird work can be hot and nasty work. It’s hot in Arizona and a technician here can be on top of a roof with the temperature at 125°F. If they don’t have the tools to do efficient and effective work, you’re hurting your company’s bottom line and you’re hurting your employees’ morale.”
Kimmich said bird control technicians don’t fall into “your normal, everyday pest control technician category.” He says they must be dedicated only to bird control. “They’ll learn to do bird control better, faster and more efficiently. And it’s best if your technicians have a construction business background. They like challenges, enjoy doing things differently on a daily basis, and take pride in their workmanship. Unlike insects, the bird problems they deal with are highly visible to the public.
“Obviously, the technicians must not be afraid of heights and must be very safety conscious,” he continues. “We work continually at heights two stories high, up to 125 to 150 feet. And they must be comfortable rappelling off of buildings that high. We once had a new technician who, on his first day on the job, got half-way up a ladder and froze. He didn’t realize he was afraid of heights.
It takes six to 12 months of bird control work for a new technician to become proficient and be on his or her own, Kimmich added.
Kimmich says pigeons are the No. 1 urban pest bird, damaging property wherever they nest or roost. “They’re found around buildings, bridges, billboards or other structures and they nest and breed where food and water are nearby. Their diet varies and they generally nest in small, flat areas away from the ground such as building ledges, air conditioning units or windowsills. They’ll inhabit any area that offers shelter, such as lofts, church steeples, attics and any place with openings that allow for roosting and nesting.”
The best pigeon control product, according to Kimmich, is 2-inch or ¾-inch bird netting. This product is extremely durable and creates a true bird barrier against problem pigeons “homing” to their natural instinct to stay near their birth site. “Pigeon netting completely controls pigeon problems, forcing the birds to look elsewhere for a nesting site.”
He says sparrows are the No. 2 urban pest bird. “They like to nest in small enclosed places such as house shutters, drain pipes, building rafters and corrugated metal siding,” Kimmich said. “They’ll build a nest in a tree or another exposed place if they have no other options, and have a large breeding capacity. They’re loud, and roost in flocks on branches of city trees, ivy-covered walls and under eaves of houses. If unchecked, a breeding pair can grow to more than 2,000 birds in two to three years.
“They’re aggressive and will often force out other birds from their territories. They flock and will gather in groups to take over feeding and roosting areas. They are often a nuisance in urban areas like manufacturing and food-processing plants. Gutters and drainage pipes clogged with sparrow nests can backup and cause extensive water damage and fires have been attributed to electrical shorts caused by machinery housing sparrow nests. And, pigeon or sparrow feces build-up can lead to structural damage from the uric acid in droppings, plus the bacteria, fungal agents and parasites in the feces also pose a health risk.”
Kimmich suggested that an effective method of control is to exclude sparrows from the area with ¾-inch bird netting or metal hardware cloth, making sure there are no gaps or crevices for the birds to pass through. He says the only ledge deterrent systems that are effective against sparrows are electrified systems that use an intermittent pulse. “You should know that if you should put up spikes for pigeons, for example, sparrows could nest under those spikes,” he said. “If you’ve controlled your customer’s pigeon problem but sparrows enter the scene, that customer won’t think it’s a job well done.”
New two-chambered sparrow traps can be quite effective at trapping small numbers of sparrows, Kimmich said. “The best trap has an elevated second chamber that keeps the birds happy and so content that they actually sing, attracting others to the trap,” he said. “If it’s practical, a trapping program should be combined with a nest removal program that will greatly reduce the population over time. Along with trapping, mist nets can be installed in the flight paths by certified personnel to capture these birds in enclosed areas.”
Kimmich also noted that a new technique he has found successful for moving populations is to fog problem areas with a repellent. “This method is most commonly applied when sparrows gather in flocks,” he said. “Sparrows generally do not react to audio and visual products except occasionally in areas to which they are not very committed to an area.”
All About Crows.
Crows are a minor urban pest compared to the pigeon or sparrow, he said, but they can overwhelm trees, and create a lot of noise. They can harass people and animals in the vicinity — a nuisance to the suburban resident. “And like any pest bird, dropping buildup can lead to structural damage from the uric acid while also posing a health risk due to the harborage of disease.”
He explained that crows are committed nest builders. “They typically build nests in trees, 20 to 60 feet off the ground. The nest consists of sticks and twigs with shredded bark, grass or a similar material lining it.”
Crows have one or two broods a year, he said, and they average four to seven eggs per brood. “Incubation takes 18 days with a four to five week fledgling period before the young leave the nest. The eggs range from pale bluish-green to olive green or greenish-brown with splotches of brown and olive-gray.”
Kimmich noted that it’s possible to sometimes drive away large flocks of crows and other blackbirds using audio/visual scare devices combined with visual scare devices. “To maximize effectiveness, hang visual products in trees before commencing a noise campaign. They can be kept off ledges using 5-inch anti-perching coils, bird wires, bird spikes or electrified track. Two-inch mesh bird netting will exclude crows completely from most areas. Advanced predator kites and fogging are new effective deterrent methods that can be effective against crows,” he added.
The author is a contributing writer for PCT and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.