An effective bird management program includes evaluating, and many times altering, landscaping.
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Like Integrated Pest Management (IPM), an effective bird management program uses a number of methods and products to achieve results. All too often, companies forget about proactive measures that can be taken to prevent birds from becoming an issue. One of the most overlooked ways to deter birds from a client’s property is to help them evaluate their landscaping. Grass, shrubbery, trees and plants can all play a role in keeping birds at bay.
Grass Maintenance. When grass is maintained at traditionally short lengths, it presents a tremendous food source for pest birds such as geese. Grass that is below 6 inches in height has more than 80 percent of its biomass above ground, which gives birds plenty of organic material to feed on, attracting them to lawns and grassy expanses. Grass maintained at the optimal length of 6 to 8 inches, on the other hand, has 80 percent of its biomass below ground, making the food source indigestible for birds and most other animals. At this height, grass also disrupts visual flock communication, limits predator detection and obscures invertebrate food sources such as insects, further deterrents to birds and wildlife in general.
Grass management in this manner offers a number of environmental and cost benefits for your clients, as well, including:
- Grass with a length of 6 to 8 inches has a denser root structure that helps control erosion, will outcompete weedy vegetation, and requires less water.
- At this length, grass puts more of its energy into growing its root structure, which means it grows more slowly than shorter grass, requiring less maintenance.
Plant and Tree Selection. Landscapers often choose plants, shrubs and trees for a property and decide on their placement to achieve a certain stylistic look or to reduce landscaping needs. However, they often don’t think about how that selection will affect wildlife, bird and insect activity. When discussing landscaping with your clients, keep these key points in mind:
- Many types of vegetation can provide food or harborage sources for various species of birds and insects. Your local cooperative extension specialist can help you develop a list of plants, trees and shrubs that are appropriate for your area that are not attractive to birds, insects and other wildlife.
- Avoid planting conifers except as widely spaced individual trees. These trees offer dense foliage that when clustered together become an attractive harborage for a number of bird species.
- Trees with open form canopies provide minimal shelter for birds. When maintained with routine trimming, these trees will not attract birds to a property.
- Plant staggered rows of trees spaced so that their canopies do not interlock.
- Avoid rows of trees encircling parking lots. Parking lots create open, accessible areas for birds. Trees ringing parking lots provide the perfect roosting spot for birds to watch over these areas, discouraging them from ever leaving a property.
- Select low growth shrubs and keep areas under shrubs open. Filling with other plants and mulch (otherwise known as understory) creates harborage for birds, insects and other small wildlife.
- Plant vegetation in linear configurations as opposed to circular clusters. Keep plants from touching whenever possible to keep vegetation from becoming dense and serving as harborage and food source.
- Avoid planting the same species of plants, trees and shrubs over a large area of property. When diseases or widespread insect infestations take root, landscaping that is mono-cultured can be particularly susceptible to damage.
Tools such as netting, shock track and other deterrents have their place in bird management programs, but they do not work in every case and can be rendered ineffective by other environmental issues. As part of a holistic property evaluation, a landscaping initiative is an environmentally friendly tool that can impact the bottom line for both you and your clients by reducing the need for other tools in the long run. Adding landscaping recommendations to your bird management arsenal is one way to keep your clients’ properties looking sharp — and bird free — for years to come.
The author is vice president, North American Bird Program, The Steritech Group Inc., and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.