[Bird Control] A Bird’s Eye View

Features - Bird Control

Opportunities for growth through bird control work exist for PMPs willing to take a chance.

April 30, 2013
Jeff Fenner

The volume of droppings one pigeon produces each day is approximately 1/5 of its body weight. Transfer that statistic to the loading dock of a food-processing facility or the main entrance of an elementary school where dozens of pigeons are nesting, and you can see why bird control services are a much-sought after commodity by commercial clients.

Birds are frequently identified by food-processing facility QA managers and commercial property managers as the pest they have the most trouble with. Ever-expanding federal regulations and third-party auditors require food facilities to establish pest- and disease-free standards, and commercial clients know their customers don’t want to see bird droppings on restaurant patio tables and chairs.

Managing nuisance birds is a market segment PMPs are starting to take advantage of in greater numbers but there is still ample room for growth.

Bird Barrier co-founder and President Cameron Riddell has seen the bird control market evolve since founding the company in 1993. He is an ardent supporter of PMPs looking to enter and successfully grow the bird control segment of their business.

PCT talked with Riddell about the state of the bird control market and asked him to share his insights on the issues impacting pest management professionals looking to expand their bird control work. Here is what Riddell had to say:

Q: What opportunities exist for pest management professionals to enter or expand their existing bird control work?

A: The opportunities are vast for pest management professionals who want to expand into bird control work. Our research shows 5 to 15 percent of a PMP’s existing customer base has a bird issue they need resolved.

Commercial accounts represent the greatest revenue opportunities for pest professionals. Opportunities exist in the residential sector, especially if you are able to secure a homeowners’ association that has to resolve a bird issue for an entire neighborhood.

Topping the list is food-processing and -distribution facilities — they have to be pest and bird free. Outdoor lifestyle malls with retail, food service and residential are a good example because they provide ample food, water and harborage for birds, as are health-care and education facilities.

If pest professionals observe birds in and around an account they currently service they should introduce bird work into the conversation. Point out what you have observed and ask customers if they feel the birds are an issue. Are the birds forcing them to spend unbudgeted dollars on structural repairs or extra cleaning services to remove bird droppings? Listening to the customer and picking up on their pain level when it comes to birds is important.

Q: What are the blockers that prevent pest management professionals from entering or expanding into bird work?

A: It is not easy to jump right into doing bird control work. You must be able to assess the level of the bird problem in the account, and have the right tools and training to perform the service correctly.

The biggest challenge in bird work is estimating. Determining how much product is needed, how long will it take to install and how many technicians are needed are all questions that must be answered before a proposal can be submitted. Some residential jobs can be done with one technician in half a day while other large commercial accounts require multiple technicians for periods as long as a week.

Pest management professionals also worry about making a mistake that could cost them the general pest or termite business they have with the customer. Overcoming these obstacles is done by investing the time in training — something we do a lot of at Bird Barrier — and knowing what products to use and where to use them.

I would recommend pest professionals start doing small bird jobs on a consistent basis to gain experience and confidence. Customers are coming to you for your expert opinion and solutions to their bird problems. If you can speak from experience, it quickly gains customer confidence.

Q: How has the USDA’s Wildlife Services being involved with bidding on bird control work impacted PCOs? How will the PESTT Act help the industry?

A: We have heard from some customers who have been impacted by bids submitted by the USDA’s Wildlife Services. Hopefully, they will be able to reach a better understanding that defines the role of the government and recognizes the important work the industry does in bird, rodent and nuisance wildlife control.

Q: How has the Food Safety Modernization Act impacted bird work in food-processing and -distribution facilities?

A: It’s hard to say at this point what the exact impact the FSMA will have on the bird control market except to say that there will likely be a heightened awareness by the FDA to birds and other pests that can present a hazard to processed food or food commodities.

We often speak at food industry events and when we talk with major/national food processors they always say birds are the No. 1 pest they are concerned about. I think this is because birds are a very visible pest and the health threat their droppings — which are also highly visible — are quite serious.

Bird control work in and around food-processing and -distribution facilities is an opportunity for pest professionals who have the capacity to secure large, sustainable and potentially lucrative accounts.

Q: What are customers asking for when it comes to bird work?

A: Customers want the birds and what they leave behind — droppings and nesting materials — removed. They want their facilities to remain clean and free of birds. This may be for image reasons (or in the case with food industry accounts, for health reasons). Consumers also want bird control done humanely. They don’t want birds killed, they just want them gone.

The biggest challenge pest management professionals have when delivering bird control work is access to the infested areas. Bird harborage locations are sometimes high up on structures in signs, ledges or roof top heating and cooling units. Although some jobs can be done while walking around a commercial roof, sometimes certain areas are not easy to get to without the right equipment. PMPs need to consider these costs — and also safety concerns — if they are new to bird control work.

A bird job on a commercial site represents a significant investment for the customer — anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 depending on the size and specifications of the structure. For some PMPs, asking for that amount for one job is unfamiliar territory. Bird work has a very different price scale than traditional pest services.

That’s why it is important for PMPs to get it right from the start. It starts with how well you pre-qualify the customer on the initial inspection. Make sure you pick the right products, have the right equipment, and know what your time and labor costs will be.

It is important to have an honest conversation with customers about the investment they need to make. Ask about the time frame they want the work performed in and what their budget is. Most commercial customers know bird work is expensive and are willing to make the investment but they need to feel pain from the problem before acting. That said we wouldn’t be in business if jobs weren’t selling.

Q: What will drive the market for bird control going forward?

A: It will come down to a couple of things. First is the economy. Since bird work is heavily dependent on the commercial and government sectors, a strong economy allows customers to invest in bird control services.

The second thing is to what extent suppliers, like Bird Barrier, are willing to promote training and invest in product development. Having more highly trained and knowledgeable pest management professionals talking with customers will translate into more bids and more work.

PMPs are looking for faster/easier solutions for bird work and their customers want less-visible solutions to their bird problems. Our job is to satisfy both needs and that’s where we are headed.

Q: Bird Barrier has a reputation for introducing innovative products to the market — what’s next?

A: We have always championed product development and will continue to do so. One of our newest products is the Sparrow “Trap Door.” It is designed for use in facilities like Costco or Walmart stores that have a problem with sparrows getting inside. When sparrows land on the built-in perch it triggers a trap door and they fall safely inside a ventilated box. Food and water can be left inside the box for the birds until they are safely released outdoors.

We are always looking for new and innovate ways to make bird control work more effective and financially attractive to the pest management industry. We have a few things “back in the barn” that we are working on that I think will be well received.

The author is partner of B Communications, www.b-communications.com, an integrated communications/marketing firm specializing in the needs of PMPs. He can be reached at jfenner@giemedia.com.