With roughly 900 recorded species of bird in North America, it can be difficult to distinguish between protected species when trying to mitigate damage to your home and property. Some birds remain helpful by eating other pests or invasive weeds in your garden, but wild birds also leave feces that are unsightly and can carry serious health risks. In addition, they can create conducive conditions for other pests such as ticks, mites, and fleas.
Due to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to exterminate most birds. Removing or destroying their nests is also prohibited. However, home and business owners need not worry; Pest Control Professionals have been utilizing effective alternatives that protect your property while keeping the wild bird populations safeguarded.
There have been several proven effective alternatives, including:
- Natural repellants
- Predator decoys
Effectively excluding birds from popular congregation spots often requires safely and humanely removing and relocating the birds.
Identifying Common Pest Birds in the Pacific Northwest
Pigeons are one of the most common birds in the Pacific Northwest. Though they may seem completely harmless, their feces can be a serious safety hazard. In large concentrations, pigeon droppings have been known to corrode metals, kill grass, and can even create slippery surfaces.
More worrisome, however, is their ability to spread Cryptococcosis, a pulmonary infection acquired by inhalation of the fungus cryptococcus neoformans. This highly toxic fungus is found primarily in soils enriched with pigeon droppings and can last for up to two years.
Woodpeckers have their frustration right in their name. With 11 species of these colorful birds located here in Washington, it is not an uncommon occurrence to hear the drumming of a woodpecker at almost any time of year, as most of them are found year-round. They use their beak to peck into wood to find food, make shelter, or to attract a mate.
Unfortunately for our homes and places of business, the natural habits of the woodpecker can cause quite a bit of damage, as their pecking can create entry points for other pests. Woodpeckers are often attracted to aluminum or other metal siding, making a very loud place for them to concentrate their drumming when looking for mates as well.
Sparrow infestations can happen quickly, as they produce up to 20 offspring a year. The most common sparrow found in Washington State is the “house” sparrow, also called the English sparrow.
Sparrows are considered “urban birds,” as they prefer to be around people. As humans mass in population, we provide these opportunistic birds food and shelter if we leave them scraps and unmaintained structures. This makes highly populated areas—such as cities, neighborhoods, and business districts—prime spots for sparrow nesting and activity.
European starlings, as indicated by their name, are not native to Washington. Due to their invasive and destructive nature, they are one of few birds that are not protected by federal.
Starlings are responsible for causing structural damage, gutter drainage issues, and spreading potentially deadly illnesses like salmonella, encephalitis, and meningitis. They are also destructive to native bird species such as bluebirds and owls, aggressively pushing these fellow cavity dwellers from their nests.
Damage Caused by Birds
In general, birds are enjoyable to have in your garden, and offer such a beautiful variety to observe as an onlooker in their natural habitats. However, cohabitating with some of these species can present some challenging issues.
Damage to roofs from birds are primarily caused by their acidic droppings. Unlike mammals, birds do not urinate; the “white” part of bird feces are highly concentrated urates consisting of uric acid and several other hazardous bacteria and fungi. The uric acid is particularly damaging to surfaces like roofing structures. When combined with heat over prolonged periods, it can break down roof tar and even break down asphalt shingles, which can lead to roof leaks.
As with the damage they cause to roofs, acidic bird droppings are a common culprit when it comes to vehicle damage as well. The pH in a bird’s feces can range from 3 to 4.5, similar to that of black coffee. Combined with heat, these droppings can quickly burn a vehicle’s painted surface, causing permanent damage to protective coatings and even the paint itself.
Fires and Ventilation
Birds typically nest in trees and shrubs. However, when those are not available such as in urban habitats, nests can be found in some dangerous places. Birds can drop sticks and twigs down the end of a pipe or fill a dryer or air vent with leaves, straw, and natural fibers until they have the foundation for their nests.
Eventually, these blockages can become so obstructive that high amounts of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide can back up back into your home. Blocked dryer vents will soon become clogged with lint which, aside from causing your appliances to malfunction, is one of the most common causes of house fires.
DIY Steps to Keeping Birds Away
Birds can be quite persistent, but there are a few do-it-yourself techniques that have been successful.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Aluminum foil, mirrors, old CDs—anything with a highly reflective surface is a great deterrent for problematic birds. It isn’t widely understood why birds are afraid of shiny objects, but the operating theory is that they see their reflection and perceive it as another predatory bird. Whatever the reason, we’re glad it works—when it does.
Birds are highly protective and territorial especially when it comes to predators. Placing decoys that look like cats, owls, and larger birds of prey can deter invasive bird species from roosting. However, it is important to continually move these decoys as birds will quickly become wise to this strategy, turning your deterrent into an ineffective lawn ornament.
Bird spikes are used to dissuade birds from roosting on flat surfaces by reducing the amount of area available to land on. Some bird control spikes use electrical current to increase effectiveness, but most simply consist of long, needle-like rods that are attached to building ledges and overhangs, commercial signage, window sills, and can even be used in garden beds.
There are various types of repellent sprays that you can make to discourage birds from nesting and roosting in an area. A popular concoction involves water, fermented chili peppers, and apple cider vinegar which seems to do the trick when sprayed over plants every few days. However, the issue with using natural repellents is that they must be reapplied regularly, so they are not as dependable as other bird control methods.
If DIY Doesn’t Work—Call the Pros
Bird control can be challenging even for the most seasoned pest control professional. Birds are intelligent and quickly adapt to changes in their environment. Attempting to contain a pesky or even destructive bird issue with DIY methods can prove to be more than the everyday home or business owner can tackle.
Typically, hiring a pest control professional for bird control or removal is the most effective and safe way to deter birds and prevent further damage to your property. However, no matter what you choose, always remember to work within local and federal guidelines so that you stay safe and healthy.