Ethical methods of bird pest control

20th of September 2013
Ethical methods of bird pest control
Ethical methods of bird pest control

Birds bring beauty into our lives and our gardens, but it can be a different story in towns and cities. Birds such as gulls and pigeons can cause extensive damage to buildings – but how can business owners deal with the problem in an ethical way?

John Dickson, managing director of NBC Bird & Pest Solutions, outlines some of the most effective methods available.

Birds and bird song, hold a special place in the hearts of people right across the globe – from the more common species that visit our gardens on a daily basis, to the soaring majesty of birds of prey that can be seen gliding through the sky in wilder, more open spaces.

There’s no doubt that birds enhance the world in which we live but conflict can occur, particularly in our urban areas. Feral pigeons are the most obvious example of this. Derived from domestic pigeons, which in turn were bred from the wild, sea cliff and mountain dwelling Rock Dove, feral pigeons have adapted to urban life by substituting building ledges for cliffs as nesting and roosting sites. They usually reach their highest densities in city centres and so are frequently encountered by members of the public, which inevitably leads to problems.

Pigeons are still a familiar sight at well-known landmarks around the world. For years the pigeons in St Mark’s Square, Venice, were considered a tourist attraction until a municipal ordinance banning people from feeding them came into effect in May 2008. Controlling food supply is a common sense way to control birds so making sure your housekeeping is in order, by disposing of waste properly and dealing with litter problems quickly, is a good place to start.

Nuisance birds – such as pigeons, gulls and starlings – can harm property by using guttering, window ledges, air conditioning vents and chimney pots to nest in. The resulting bird mess is another unsightly by-product, bringing with it additional worries regarding the spread of disease and bacteria. In some extreme cases, birds have attacked people while nesting. For businesses and home owners alike, nuisance birds can cause considerable damage and distress – but solutions do exist.

Ethical approach

Thanks to advances in science and technology, a whole host of bird control methods are now available to deal with birds and pests ethically, using treatments that have no adverse effects on wildlife or the surrounding environment.

Bird free ‘fake fire’ gel incorporates food-grade natural oils to keep problem birds off structures without harming them. From a bird’s eye view, the gel gives off ultra-violet light, which looks like flames. This visual deterrent is also reinforced through the senses of smell and taste, because the scent and flavour of the oils is abhorrent to birds.

Many methods

Trained wildlife experts use falconry response as an extremely effective method of control where bird proofing is not an option, perhaps due to the building being listed or just too large to make traditional bird proofing a practical option. The presence of a trained hawk or falcon quickly makes an area undesirable to gulls and pigeons, encouraging them to establish a new pattern of behaviour without harming them.

Rockets and kites are quick and easy bird scaring methods that are usually employed alongside other strategies as part of a wider bird control programme. They are also a more affordable option for clients who are trying to keep costs down.

Broadcasting audio recordings of gulls, starlings, rooks and crows in distress is another effective way to control birds.

Traditional methods of bird proofing such as bird netting and spiking are well-known, but other options are available. For example, Avishock provides a mild electric shock (much like livestock fencing), which deters birds that land on installed tracks. This method is particularly popular where low profile proofing is required to maintain the aesthetics of a building, as it is invisible from the ground.

There are many different methods to control birds but identifying the right one that will deliver the desired results for your location takes specialist expertise. Bird control and bird legislation is a complex area, so engaging the services of a trusted, knowledgeable bird and pest solution specialist is a must. Trying to deal with the problem yourself, or hiring the wrong contractor, will, at best, result in a poor return on your financial outlay or, at worst, litigation and hefty fines.

All UK birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is an offence, with certain exceptions, to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird, or damage the nest. Even for pest species, lethal control should always be the last resort. Therefore, to ensure that the law is followed – in both letter and spirit – correctly identifying the species in question, and documenting a clear reason why control is required, is essential.

A reputable bird control company will tailor its services to fit individual situations, and this should start with a comprehensive site survey. The company should then recommend and carry out the appropriate treatment, including prevention advice and follow-up visits where necessary.

To ensure the very best quality and service always look for contractors that are members of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA). Technicians should also be BASIS-PROMPT registered (Professional Register of Managers and Pest Technicians) for independent proof of training and expertise, and if handlers are flying birds of prey, they should be Lantra-certified – the UK’s Sector Skills Council for land-based and environmental industries.

This last point is especially important. When choosing falconry as an option, many people have the misconception that anyone with a bird of prey could do the job. But think of it this way – if you suspected there was an unexploded bomb in your garden you wouldn’t call on next door’s terrier to sniff out any possible explosives, would you? Sniffer dogs and their handlers, whether searching for drugs, money or explosives, are specifically trained to do their jobs, and the same applies to falconry in pest control.

Timing and evaluation

The timescale for any bird control method to be effective depends on the scale of the problem, the type of damage that has been caused, and any environmental factors or attractions that are drawing birds to the area. That’s why it’s important to use experienced professionals who can monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the bird control programme and make changes, should they be required.

Evaluation is also useful when calculating costs. Nuisance birds can cause extensive damage to buildings due to the location of their nests and the debris from nesting materials. Bird fouling can also turn buildings into eyesores, as well as putting foundations at risk from the acid in the droppings, corroding bricks and paintwork.

The possible costly consequence of a single nest that blocks guttering or drainage could be flooding to several levels of a building – and noisy, aggressive birds could result in a downturn in business as customers are put off and choose to shop elsewhere.

Economic sense

Putting these things right costs time and money – scarce commodities in the current tough economic climate – so effective and professional ethical bird control methods could prove beneficial to your bottom line, as well as making your building more attractive. This
makes it even more important to evaluate each operation thoroughly, with bird counts before, during and after works, which will help to assess the value of the programme.

Corporate social responsibility

Whether you’re an SME or a multi-national global name, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not just something that’s nice to have – to survive and thrive it is a must-have. Business or domestic customers are all more aware of our moral responsibilities, ranging from minimising the impact of our actions on the environment, to playing an active part in supporting our local communities through charitable or voluntary work.

By properly considering non-lethal bird control methods, companies are demonstrating that they are ethical and law-abiding. As well as meeting health and safety and bird protection legislation, ethical bird control programmes will help you to achieve your CSR goals and can provide interesting stories for the trade and local press, further enhancing your company’s reputation.


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