Birds flying in sky

When thinking of pest issues associated with commercial facilities, cockroaches, rodents and flies may come to mind. However, there are other pests that frequently cause issues in these facilities and wreak havoc on facility managers who try to address the problem — birds.  

While birds are not usually seen as pests, they can become a serious issue for commercial facilities as they can transmit disease and damage or deface structures.  

Bird Threats  

Birds are often attracted to buildings when looking for loafing, roosting and nesting sites. (Loafing birds are resting, roosting birds are spending the night, and nesting birds are caring for eggs or young.) These pests can be found on overhangs, awnings, signage, as well as voids on outside areas of buildings and other protected areas. Roofs, ledges and cavities where birds can land to rest are problem areas for bird damage. Nests and associated debris can also clog gutters and rainspouts, creating drainage issues. 

The most frequently encountered birds pestering commercial buildings are pigeons, house sparrows and European starlings. Found throughout the U.S., these birds can transmit dangerous diseases such as histoplasmosis and Salmonella. These diseases can make the jump to humans through contact with birds, their nests or their droppings. Bird droppings also pose a significant threat to property, as they can cause premature rusting and erosion. European starlings gather in large roosting flocks, and in rural settings can cause significant loss in livestock feed and grain due to contamination.  

In addition to their ability to transmit disease — causing pathogens for humans — birds are commonly infested with various pests like lice, mites and other ectoparasites. These pests can move from birds or their nesting sites and cause additional issues for facility managers. While some of these tiny pests are mainly a nuisance, many are capable of biting humans and can even transmit diseases of their own.  

Bird prevention is extremely important in any type of commercial setting, but it is especially important in facilities where there is food. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits any condition where food may become contaminated. Because of this, even if a bird is not inside a facility near food product storage or production, they are a contamination threat. For example, the presence of birds around loading docks or facility entry points can lead to products entering the facility being contaminated with fecal matter, feathers dirt, and more.   

Treatment & Prevention

The most important step facility managers can take to ensure their buildings and grounds are protected from threats associated with birds is to partner with a licensed pest control company to perform regular inspections and implement an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. IPM is a holistic and customized approach to pest control that is comprised of three steps: inspection, identification, and treatment to help ensure commercial facilities are clean, compliant and pest-free.  

The assistance of a licensed pest control professional can give peace of mind that a facility is geared up to ward off pests throughout the year. A comprehensive bird management program will address ways to evict birds and prevent them from returning. Attention can then be spent on ensuring a facility is delivering quality products in a safe and efficient way.  

Hiring the best pest control partner should be at the top of every facility manger’s maintenance to-do list. Check out these tips to ensure the best company for the job is selected:    

1. Evaluate pest control companies that are members of national, state or local pest control associations. Being a member of these associations means the company is committed to protecting public health and property and has a desire to receive ongoing education about new control technologies and prevention techniques. These companies will also abide by local and federal pest control regulations.   

2. Research companies and ask for recommendations. Inquire about companies and services used by similar facilities as they may be facing similar challenges regarding pest and bird control. When meeting with a prospective pest control partner, always ask questions about their pest control practices and other clients they serve.   

3. Understand service agreements. Before finalizing the agreement, carefully read contract terms to fully understand what pests and services are covered, as well as any guarantees that may be given.   

A bird problem may start innocently; a bird nesting on a ledge, but can quickly grow into a problematic infestation. Birds like pigeons have become dependent on humans for food, roosting and nesting sites, which can make them extremely difficult to remove. It is important to address roosting or loafing birds at the first sign, otherwise populations may become entrenched in an area, returning habitually and eventually nesting.    

To address a bird issue on the premises of a facility, first contact a licensed pest control partner to conduct a site survey. Then determine the location of the problem, bird species observed, recommended control procedures and pricing considerations.  

Before the problem is addressed, appropriate federal, state and local regulations should also be checked. For example, house sparrows, European starlings, and pigeons are not protected by the federal Endangered Species Act or Migratory Bird Treaty Act and statutes, but their control may be protected by some states. If the area is a bird sanctuary, then local permits are also required. Once this is determined, the licensed pest control professional can recommend a proper course of treatment. 

In addition to working with a pest control professional, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends the following bird prevention tips for facility managers: 

  • Prevention: Make loafing, roosting and nesting areas inhospitable by preventing access to voids and eliminating resting places. Pest control professionals can provide options and guidance to determine the best methods for prevention. 

• Close entryways: To prevent birds from entering the facility and building nests inside, it is important to block access points that may be welcoming them in.  

• Eliminate attractants: Ensuring all food items (including garbage) are made inaccessible to birds can help prevent them from seeking out the facility.  

• Install signage: To ensure employees and customers do not feed birds, install signage in common areas where birds may gather.  

• Avoid scare techniques: Refrain from using scare balloons, plastic birds, or plastic snakes as they rarely work except for a very short period.  

Birds are more than just a nuisance and can present serious issues for commercial facilities. Once a problem arises, facility managers should consult their licensed pest control partner immediately as bird issues can be extremely difficult to eradicate. A pest control professional can identify the issue and recommend a course of treatment that abides by state and local regulations.  

Jim Fredericks is the senior vice president of public affairs at the Fairfax, Virginia-based National Pest Management Association (NPMA)