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Honing in on Pest Birds

Keep birds from nesting on your property

By Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

For one reason or another, many facility managers don’t view birds as pests. But birds are not just a nuisance; they can negatively affect your facility and those who work in and around it.

Pest birds cause tens of millions of dollars in damage every year to machinery, automobiles, roofs and ventilation systems as well as destroy and contaminate food. Their droppings are high in nitrogen content, which can be corrosive to metals and other building materials.

Those droppings are more than gross, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bird fecal material can contain disease organisms such as histoplasmosis, cryptococcus and ectoparasites. These diseases can cause fever, chest pains and coughing and, if left untreated, spread from the lungs to other organs, according to the CDC. They can also carry Salmonella and E. coli. Bird droppings containing these microbes can lead to food borne illness, some of which can be fatal. The CDC reports that more than 1,500 people die of food borne illness each year.

The World Health Organization reports that birds are also the principal hosts or amplifying hosts for viruses associated with eastern and western Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, West Nile Virus and even some influenza viruses.

The types of birds that can affect your property depend on its location and surrounding geography. Pest pigeons and sparrows breed in urban and suburban areas, transmit diseases and can destroy structures with their droppings. House sparrows, while only a few inches tall, can outcompete native songbirds with high volumes of noise at all hours of the day.

Fortunately, you can manage pest birds through several prevention and control measures that fall under an Integrated Pest (Bird) Management (IPM) program.

IPM proactively controls pests through sanitation, facility maintenance and exclusion tactics. Chemicals are only used as a last resort and then only in highly targeted treatments. What’s more, IPM programs specifically target the type of pests that are threatening your building.

The CDC now promotes IPM as a “science-based, commonsense approach for managing populations of disease vectors and public health pests.” An effective IPM plan involves comprehensive inspections and risk evaluations, a focus on prevention that keeps sustainability in mind and ongoing monitoring, documentation and communication.

Talk with a pest management professional today about creating a custom IPM program for your building, and include these IPM practices to guard against the pest birds in and around your property.

A Three Step Process

Controlling a bird infestation is a three step process, and just like any good IPM plan, it begins with inspection. Work with a pest management professional to identify the problem species and look for feeding, roosting, nesting and loitering areas around your facility. Remember that inspections should be completed at different times of the day because bird activity changes.

Should pest bird populations be present, your pest management professional should work to modify their habitat. A few tactics like applying nets, gels, bird wire and coils can make your facility unattractive to them. If nuisance birds find your facility to be uncomfortable, they’ll likely make their nests elsewhere. Keep in mind that these treatments need to be monitored regularly.

Other options such as mechanical traps and chemical treatments are available as well. Work with your pest management provider to determine when these steps are necessary to solve a particularly stubborn bird problem.

Guard your roof

Many pest birds, particularly pigeons, prefer to roost on flat surfaces and can often be found on roof ledges. Once they nest there, they are not easily discouraged by repellants or relocation techniques.

With this in mind, the best way to stop birds from roosting on your roof is before they start. Regularly inspect your roof and rooftop HVAC units for any openings, which serve as nesting and roosting sites. Also, sweep or mop up any standing water after rain showers, which can serve as impromptu bird baths.

No free meals

Like many pests, nuisance birds will be attracted to your facility if they can find a free meal. The smallest scraps can entice an avian invasion, so keep any community areas clean and clear of food debris. Make sure trash cans and recycle bins are lined, covered and emptied on a regular basis.

The same goes for sidings and docks, which should also be kept clean and free from spilled debris and other residues that attract birds. Paving these areas and cleaning them daily may be needed to help keep birds away.

You can also remind employees, tenants and visitors to keep break areas clean and free of debris and never feed birds close to the facility.

Remember, birds loitering on the outside may find their way inside. Once inside, they may find it difficult to get out or find conditions adequate for them to set up house inside. These birds may need to be trapped or physically removed.

Clean up carefully

If birds leave droppings on your property, it’s best to talk to a pest management professional about the removal process. If your internal staff handles dropping removal, be sure to take the following minimum steps before any extensive clean-up measure is taken:

  • Inform workers of the possible health risks involved, particularly those with weakened immune systems.

  • Wear protective clothing like disposable coveralls, boots, gloves and respirators.

  • Wash hands and any exposed skin when finished with removal.

  • Implement dust control measures, such as containing the area with plastic sheeting.

  • Wet down the cleanup area to prevent inhalation and reduce the risk of infection.

With a strong partnership, you and your pest management professional will hold the key ingredients to keep these pests away. Together, you can help keep birds and other pests from infesting your property.

Use IPM to shut down other flying pests, too

The right Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program will do more than keep birds away; it will make your facility a “no-fly” zone for other flying pests such as flies and mosquitoes. Follow these tips in the summer when mosquito and fly populations explode.

  • Flies are often a sign of a larger sanitation issue in or near your facility. Clean up any food debris immediately and use a bacterial-enzymatic cleaner to remove organic material on drains and floors that can attract and support breeding of fruit and drain flies. Just like for birds, keep your trash cans and recycle bins lined and empty them often, especially if they contain food waste.

  • Install two sets of doors to create an added boundary line for flying pests to cross. You can also install wall-mounted fans that blow air out, forming a barrier against flying pests.

  • Install sodium vapor bulbs on your building. Unlike mercury vapor or incandescent lights, these bulbs do not attract mosquitoes. To draw mosquitoes – and other flying pests – away from your building, you can install mercury vapor lights at least 100 feet away.

  • Make sure that your facility has positive airflow – meaning air flows out of, not into, your building when the doors are opened. You can test this yourself by letting go of a piece of tissue paper at your entrance; if it blows out, air is flowing positively. If air pushes the paper inside, call an HVAC professional to correct the problem.

  • Seal all doors and windows with weather stripping and install door sweeps and window screens to help keep pests from crawling inside.

  • Immediately remove any standing water on your property that may serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If there is permanently stagnant water on your property, a pest management professional can treat the water to help disrupt the early stages of the mosquito life cycle.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is Director of Technical Services for Orkin and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact Dr. Harrison at or visit for more information.

Source: Today's Facility Manager


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