Bird Threats: A Danger to Your Property and Your Business
Pest birds cause tens of millions of dollars of damage every year to machinery, automobiles, roofs and ventilation systems. Even worse, they can be the cause of permanent harm to your business itself, not just your property.
Safety and Health Hazards
Pest birds and their droppings can carry diseases, and some of these diseases can spread to humans.
Bird droppings can pose serious liability risks if left unaddressed and can lead to dangerous incidents, such as slipping and falling.
Tarnished Brand Image
Bird droppings, nests and debris can be foul smelling and create a poor public image with tenants, customers, visitors and patrons.
Maintenance and Repair Costs
Bird droppings contain acid which may damage and erode building components, including steel.
Bird droppings and nests can cause thousands of dollars a year in ongoing property maintenance, but their financial implications can be far more costly than simple property repairs. A few real-world examples include:
Birds can lead to expensive litigation and settlements.
- An apprentice elevator mechanic received a $2.7 million settlement from a property owner after bird droppings caused him to slip and fall down an elevator shaft.
Bird infestations can result in regulatory action against a company.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found widespread, active rodent and bird infestations during an inspection at an animal supplies distribution center. At the request of the FDA, U.S. Marshals seized various animal food products stored in these unsanitary conditions.
Costs to remediate settlements and federal fines can lead to bankruptcy.
- Inspections at a Texas peanut plant found dead rodents in and near ventilation units, rodent droppings and bird activity inside the plant. State officials imposed a $14.6 million fi ne – the largest ever in Texas – for violations, including unsanitary conditions, product contamination and operating without a license. The facility ceased production and its owner, the Peanut Corporation of America, fi led for bankruptcy.
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Pest birds pose a number of health risks, including:
Blood Sucking Insects
Blood sucking insects often feed on birds, but will feed on humans if birds are not available. These insects include poultry and swallow bugs.
Too small to be seen by the naked eye, these parasitic mites jump from an infested bird – or from a bird's habitat like a tree, nest or bench – onto a human. Bites cause small reddened bumps, intense itching, lesions and a crawling sensation on the body. When these bites are repeatedly scratched, the site may become infected.
Food Borne Illness
Research shows that birds carry disease bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Yersinia, Listeria, Cryptococcus and Campylobacter. Bird droppings containing these microbes can easily lead to food borne illness, some of which can be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 1,500 people die of food borne illness each year.
The World Health Organization reports that birds are the principal or amplifying hosts for viruses associated with eastern and western Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, West Nile Virus and even some influenza viruses.
Histoplasmosis, a pulmonary disease from fungi, grows in soil contaminated with bird droppings. The fungi is Histoplasma capsulatum and thrives in bird environments.
Birds can carry any of the following disease agents:
- St. Louis Encephalitis flavivirus
- West Nile flavivirus
- Tick Borne Encephalitis flavivirus complex
- Chlamydophila psittaci
- Campylobacter jejuni
- E. coli enteropathogenic
- Salmonella spp.
- Yersinia pseudotuberculosis
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Cryptococcus neoformans
- Histoplasma capsulatum
- Toxoplasma gondii
Of all pest birds, pigeons are perhaps the most troublesome for property managers. Frequently nesting in or around buildings, they can be a constant problem. Breeding occurs throughout the year, but usually takes place between March and July.
Contact with pigeon droppings may pose a health risk. Three human diseases are known to be associated with pigeon droppings:
Caused by a fungus that grows in pigeon and other bird droppings, symptoms of this disease include fatigue, fever and chest pains. When cleaning droppings, a person may breathe in the fungus, which in cases of high exposure can cause infection.
Also known as ornithosis or parrot fever, humans contract this rare infectious disease when bird droppings dry and become airborne. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, rash, chills and pneumonia.
Another airborne fungal disease associated with pigeon droppings, individuals with compromised immune systems are at a substantial risk for infection. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache and blurred vision.
As with any pest borne disease, medical attention should be sought for these diseases.
Always consult a licensed pest control provider before removing bird droppings. Whether your staff or your pest management provider handles the removal, it is essential to take the following safety measures:
- 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 work area to prevent inhalation and reduce the risk of infection.
Once the structures are cleaned, trained, licensed professionals should install bird control products to prevent further accumulation of droppings.