[Bird Control] Practical Tips for Successful Bird Exclusion Services

Features - Bird Control

A veteran PMP shares his “real-world” trade secrets for preventing human/bird conflicts.

April 30, 2012
Scott McNeely

If you pause for a moment and think about the different types of “wildlife” you see every day, what comes to mind? You may first think of larger animals such as deer that you see on occasion, or squirrels in your yard or at the park. Regardless of whether you live in a large city, urban area or even the country, we would all likely agree that the most common “wild animals” that we actually see on a daily basis are birds.

Most birds are highly mobile, making them very visible, and many species live in and around the same places we do. Due to these very reasons, it is common for certain bird species to create conflict because of their presence in the places where we live and work.

In effectively solving and preventing issues with human/bird conflicts, there are many different “tools, techniques and methods” that may be used depending on the specific situation. In this article we’ll focus on addressing the area of planning tips for implementing successful bird exclusion services.

Where to Start? When we first receive a call about a bird problem, we should always set out to obtain some basic information. By asking the right questions we can often “set the stage” for accurately assessing the situation, allowing us to consider alternative solutions and, ultimately, avoiding costly mistakes. This “initial call” essentially starts the planning process for choosing actions that will lead to efficiently and effectively solving the problem. I like to tell our staff that when solving a bird-related problem you literally need to think like a detective, seeking to obtain answers to the “5 W’s”: who, what, when, where and why. Once these answers are obtained as completely as possible you are then properly prepared to begin the “how to” phase of the project. Or simply, what service(s) to implement and how to begin implementation.

Bird Control Case Studies

Installation of door brushes to exclude starlings from a warehouse.

With the coming of spring, it is very common to receive calls for birds entering vents, gaps and openings of homes and commercial buildings. Starlings are often one of the most common and persistent “cavity nesters” encountered by PMPs. This past spring, we had a warehouse complex that was preparing for FDA inspections and was having issues with starlings entering around dock doorways. In order to address this situation we had to provide exclusion services to prevent nesting and entry through the openings that were present. We photographed and measured the area where the doors rolled up and noted problems associated with the points of entry. For one particular door, a metal enclosure had been fabricated by a local heating and cooling company, which had the equipment to cut and fit sheet metal. On a number of the other doorways we worked with the folks at the Seal Ease Company for selection and installation of door brushes that would exclude birds and allow for unobstructed operation of the dock doors.

Lesson Learned: There may be local businesses in your area that can provide assistance in design and fabrication of specialty exclusion devices. Many manufacturers and distributors of various products are more than willing to provide technical support and assistance in selecting and using their products. This may help you better meet the needs of your clients.

Throughout the entire evaluation and assessment process it is important to keep the perception of the client in mind. A particular bird problem may be much larger or smaller in your eyes than in the eyes of the client. Problem solving and trouble-shooting any type of bird-related issue is typically much easier when effective communication and understanding occurs between the client and the pest management professional.

Site Evaluation. To properly assess the problem, a complete on-site inspection is critical. It is important to be properly prepared to make a complete site evaluation. Equipment such as a digital and/or video camera, tape and/or rolling-wheel measuring device, digital range finder, note pad and graph paper, ladder, proper footwear, safety equipment and ladder(s) are essential for proper evaluation.

It can also be very helpful, especially on larger jobs, to have a second staff member on site to assist, both for safety reasons as well as for having another “set of eyes” and a second opinion in the decision-making process. You should also realize that, on some jobs, a complete assessment may require additional trips and/or special equipment in order to gain access to all areas. In some situations this may justify taking on a “consultative role” and charging for this portion of your service.

Some of the questions to be answered during the initial inspection include: What bird species are involved? What conditions are causing the most concern? What is the history of the problem? What is the level of bird “pressure” in the area? Why are they there? What options are available to modify the present conditions that would correct or impact the problem situation? Are additional evaluations and/or observations needed? What would be the most effective techniques or services to address the problem? What would be longest lasting? What would be most cost effective? What other information might be needed to make a complete assessment and provide recommendations?

The bird species causing a particular concern can vary greatly as do their behaviors. Due to these facts, it is very important to obtain proper identification of the specific type of bird(s) that is/are present and causing a specific problem. This information is critical in determining the best techniques and materials to use in solving the problem.

Most commonly we address issues with the “big three” – pigeons, sparrows and starlings. On other occasions, issues arise with birds such as swallows, hawks, vultures, ducks, geese and woodpeckers.

The occasional call also comes into our office for issues ranging from such things as cardinals fighting their reflection in a window or car mirror; birds nesting on and around buildings; birds protecting their nests by building entrances; and even wood ducks and screech owls coming down chimneys in attempts to locate nesting cavities.

Identifying the Best Solution. When choosing the best alternative(s) in solving a problem with pest birds, don’t be ashamed to ask for help or input from co-workers, suppliers, industry experts and manufacturers. With today’s technology you can take and e-mail digital photos or even get real-time, on-site help using a web cam and “Skyping.”

In addition, the pest management professional should always consider local, state and federal laws in selecting and implementing any type of bird management strategy. If services have been provided in the past that were unsuccessful in addressing the situation, take the time to consider and evaluate all possible ways to avoid similar mistakes.

In making the “best” decision to solve a particular bird problem it may be advantageous to present the pros and cons of the most suitable option(s) to the client to more fully engage them in the decision-making process.

Some bird control service alternatives may include such things as: elimination of available food; physical removal by means of shooting or trapping; modification of construction; installation of shock products; use of tactile repellants; application of taste/chemical deterrents; a feeding program using a distressant or reproductive inhibitor; use of visual deterrents; installation of auditory devices; or a type of exclusion service.

At times, non-conventional alternatives and thinking outside of the box can be very effective. For example, we once used several of the motion activated “scare-crow” water sprayers to successfully repel vultures from pecking at their own reflections on the ground-level glass windows of a large office building.

Selecting Exclusion Alternatives. When bird exclusion techniques are used as a stand-alone service, or in combination with other services, thorough planning can save time and effort. This is typically a much better alternative than trouble-shooting during or after completion of a job. Some common exclusion techniques include:

A technician uses construction materials to prevent access of birds to a structure.

Construction modification. In some situations conventional construction materials and techniques may be used by pest management professionals to eliminate access of birds on or into a particular area. This may include such techniques as boxing in openings, screening vents and repairing or replacing damaged siding or fascia boards. One of the keys to success in solving problems with conventional construction is selection of the best materials along with selection of proper sealing and/or attachment methods.

Netting. There are a number of different manufactures of nets and netting products. The best solution in preventing a problem and creating a need for trouble shooting with net selection is to go for quality over price whenever possible. When selling a job the difference in net cost can be minimal compared to the extended life of a netting system when using a high-quality net product. Serious consideration also should be given to the selection of the net mesh size. Keep in mind that today’s pigeon-problem site that is corrected by installing two-inch-mesh netting may become a haven for sparrows in the future.

When looking at larger netting jobs, a careful evaluation of net dimensions with which you can effectively work should be considered. If you don’t have experience in working with larger net sizes, you should consider the option of using several net sections of smaller size to cover the opening(s) or having extra man power and lifts or ladders on site.

The installation of bird netting requires specialized skills but is highly effective in managing bird populations in large commercial accounts.

The foundation for a quality netting system is the aircraft “cable grid” that is in place, along with the strength of the attachments to the various surfaces that are present. Never skimp on the number of attachments. If in doubt about a fastening system’s strength add additional and/or back-up fastening devices. Don’t over tighten your turnbuckles and always lean toward using heavier hardware for anchoring corners and key attachment points.

If you do not have experience using powder-actuated tools and loads, you must legally be trained and certified. Some of the best on-site training we’ve had has been from our local Hilti sales representative during both certification training on tool use as well as on-site assistance when determining proper fastening device selection for unique attachment requirements.

Spike and coil type products. There are a large number of bird spike and bird coil type products available from a variety of manufacturers. Keep in mind that all devices are not the same and some products have advantages and disadvantages over others. You should always make sure to select devices of sufficient width to cover the area being treated.

It is also important to make sure surfaces are properly prepared prior to securing devices to insure proper holding. Always consider using screws or other solid anchoring devices when possible. Make sure all areas of concern are covered. If you miss covering a specific location, there is a good chance that this is where your next problem area will arise. A little extra installation effort can go a long way in preventing a repair need and another on-site trip.

Lines and grids. There are a number of situations where lines or wires can be run that will strongly discourage birds flying into sensitive areas and/or landing on surfaces. Some of these situations may include building roof tops, parking lots, ledges and water features, such as retention ponds. Two key points to always consider as critically important in these applications are line and/or wire type and anchoring points.

Once again, you simply get what you pay for. You or your customer should not expect a low-cost monofilament line to perform and last as long as a high-quality Kevlar line. By the same token, a high-quality stainless post-and-wire attachment system may work effectively for many years versus using inferior quality materials.

Another point to consider in working with grid systems is line spacing and line height. We have found over the years that it is better to be conservative when implementing bird control strategies. In some situations it is desirable to have minimum visibility of line or grid systems, and the job can be sold for installation at a certain level with a prearranged agreement of adding to that system if, and as, needed. By discussing and working out these details at the time of the initial sale, future objections by the client can be avoided.

Always keep in mind that strong attachment points in all line and wire type installations are critical. A little extra effort on the front end can save a tremendous amount of effort in the future making bothersome repairs!

Angled ledge modifications. A very simple solution to some issues involving birds utilizing building ledges is the installation of angled sloping surfaces that are essentially too steep for birds to land and perch on. We have found that making sure this strategy is aesthetically acceptable to the client is critical before installation takes place.

Other options. Some other bird exclusion services include the use of brushes around moving doors, installation of commercial vent and chimney covers and several unique exclusion devices such as the “daddy long legs” product that discourages birds from landing on specific areas.

“What Ifs.” No matter how much planning you do prior to implementation of a bird exclusion service, there is always a possibility of running into something unexpected. Over the years we have had many different challenges to address and overcome, ranging from having late rental lift deliveries to having properly secured attachments fail during the middle of a net installation. I like to always use checklists, have extra hardware and equipment readily available and lean toward planning on taking 10 percent long-er than anticipated.

A second trip was required on this site to completely repel pigeons from the signage due to the persistence of the pigeons.

Keep in mind that tools that are used occasionally tend to malfunction more often than those that are used on a daily basis. Our intent is to always clean and service all specialty tools following completion of a job and then check them in advance of an upcoming job. (Please note that there have been several occasions with our company that this was not done and it cost us lost production, time and money!)

Ideally, we also try to charge sufficiently for our services. Therefore, if/when the occasion occurs where we do have to go back out to a previously completed job site, there are resources in place to allow us to fully address any repair or added service need.

Conclusion. Due to the close proximity in which man lives with many different species of birds, the potential for human/bird conflicts will continue to occur. The pest management professional should prepare him/herself for the recognition and identification of the many unique issues or problems that can be caused by birds. Always keep in mind that a little extra effort on the front end can save a tremendous amount of effort during program implementation and reduce the likelihood of future repair needs. Successful bird exclusion service programming is achieved through proper planning, preparation and implementation.


The author is owner and president of McNeely Pest Control, Winston-Salem, N.C., and a member of the Copesan Technical Committee To contact McNeely, e-mail smcneely@giemedia.com.