Blocking Birds From Ruining Your Facility
Contributed By Judy Black, BCE
Biophilia is one of the hottest trends in facility design these days. Research says that adding abundant green spaces inside and outside your property can lead to improved physical and mental health for building occupants. However, there is a serious challenge that comes with maintaining these aesthetically appealing designs. Wherever there are trees, shrubs and outdoor water features, you can expect winged visitors to take up residence.
Birds are often pretty and entertaining to watch, but they present health and structural risks that must be factored into your maintenance plan.
Risk to humans
Bird droppings are unsightly and unsanitary. They can litter your property constantly, which requires regular cleaning throughout the day. And bird waste is not just a nuisance — it can be a health hazard, too. Bird droppings can carry more than 60 diseases and spread micro-organisms that cause several types of diseases including respiratory illnesses such as toxoplasmosis. The disease-causing spores or bacteria within bird droppings can be lifted through the air, which is especially dangerous if droppings land on, or build up around, HVAC units. In addition, when birds congregate in large numbers, their waste poses a slipping hazard for employees and guests. The ectoparasites they carry, such as bird mites, can also create issues.
Risk to buildings
Studies show that bird droppings not only remove the granules of the shingle itself, but soften the top layer of the roof, much like the consequences of oil damage. But even EPDM synthetic rubber, PVC and Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roofs are not immune to bird damage. Birds can peck through the roof membrane to reveal the insulation below, which they find enticing as nest-building material.
Once a bird finds a suitable environment for their home, they’ll use a variety of accessible materials, like twigs, grass and paper, to build their nest. Combined, these tidbits can become highly flammable when birds seek a warm nesting site near electrical machinery, signage or roof wiring. Gutters and drains are also comfortable havens for birds. If they build a nest in those spaces, it can block drains and gutters, leading to leaks or even a collapsed roof. Not to mention, the repetitive need for high-pressure water cleaning of roofs can be labor intensive and costly.
Know which birds are attracted to your setting
The first step in managing birds is to identify the species on your property. Here are some common examples:
• Pigeons are the most common bird threat in urban and suburban areas and will often feed on food crumbs and litter.
• Sparrows are just a few inches tall, but they can outcompete native songbirds with high volumes of noise at all hours of the day.
• Canada geese will ravage grass and leave up to a pound a day (per goose) of droppings.
• Starlings primarily eat livestock feed and often contaminate entire batches of food with their droppings.
• Swallows, a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, require a different approach than other winged creatures. Remember to check with your pest control specialist before taking any action. Swallows are attracted to moving water features and sprinklers where they can dip for a drink, flowers that attract insects and high dark ledges, or eaves for nesting.
Evaluate your bird risk
Minimizing birds on your property begins with understanding why they’re there in the first place. A pest management professional should examine your campus to determine the severity of your bird issue. There are four levels of bird pressure that could be present:
Birds are using your property to communicate with one another. They come and go as they please and can show up at any time. This is the lowest level of bird pressure.
If feeding, birds are finding food or water sources around your vegetation and landscape.
Birds are now finding shelter in addition to food and water at your facility and are beginning to stay overnight.
Birds are breeding and nesting permanently in or around your business. This is the highest level of bird pressure.
Whether you operate a commercial or residential campus, it’s important to take an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach of inspection, sanitation and habitat modification to keep birds from wearing out their welcome.
Birds are some of the most intelligent pests we encounter. They can adapt to their surroundings and can even learn how to escape many traditional control methods. For this reason, it’s important to commission a licensed, expertly-trained pest professional to help you evaluate and deal with your bird issues.
Tall structures with ledges are areas to keep in mind when it comes to bird control. These include silos, guard rails, rooftop parapets, signage, shipping and receiving dock doors/bays, false ceilings and architectural details, such as decorative embellishments.
Sanitation is key for any bird management program, as it helps remove the primary reason birds flock to your site – food. Discourage bird feeding and birdbaths, which attract birds to the facility, and remember that spills, garbage, fruit trees, unkempt lawns and seeding flowerbeds can all cause a potential bird problem.
The goal is to make the area undesirable and unappealing via sound, odor, taste, visually, or physically. It is nearly impossible to predict exactly when birds will flock to your facility, so proactive steps are always recommended. A first step is to work with your landscape designer to determine how to make your setting unappealing via sensory cues that deter birds. These exclusion strategies are the most appropriate and environmentally-friendly approach to managing pest birds. There are several exclusion techniques that will help modify your habitat to help prevent birds from accessing desired areas. Some common techniques include:
• Installing physical barriers such as poly netting, bird spikes or bird wire systems that discourage birds from perching on the exterior of your building.
• Placing netting to block off the area around and under the HVAC unit where birds can take shelter and make nests.
• Sealing all openings in exterior walls wider than an inch with appropriate materials. This can help deter birds from squeezing through small openings and entering your facility.
• Setting up exterior traps to aid in relocation of birds.
• Installing multi-sensory, gel deterrents that appear as “dishes of fire” in the eyes of birds.
• Placing an electrical track on all ledges, with special attention to building areas that overlook outdoor dining areas and entryways.
• Using UV paint, which helps increase the effectiveness of the electrical track and the gel product.
Whether birds are lingering outside or have breached your front doors, it’s important to know how they can affect your business. Your pest control provider should conduct regular inspections of your property and equipment installations to evaluate the success of your plan. Part of partnering is letting your pest control provider know immediately if you see birds gain access to something like a warehouse space. The process of removing those birds is easier if they have not “settled in” to the space. Partnering with trusted landscape and pest management professionals, you can maintain a beautiful biophilic setting that birds will fly over rather than flock to.
Judy Black is the Vice President of Quality Assurance and Technical Services for Rollins, Inc. A board-certified entomologist and PMP Hall of Fame recipient, she has more than 30 years of experience in the pest management field and is an acknowledged leader in the industry. For more information, email JBlack@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.