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Effective bird control

Birds enhance the world we live in, 
but can cause damage to property. 
John Dickson suggests six tips to control 
birds effectively and ethically.


22 March
2012
   
Human beings come into contact with birds almost every day. Normally, these interactions are benign, even pleasant affairs. However, there are some circumstances where conflicts do occur. Birds can cause expensive damage to property and even attack people when nesting.

Also, bird mess is not only unsightly, but is known to carry diseases, creating serious health and safety hazards.
However, many clients and contractors are unaware of how they can deal with these problems ethically and legally.

1⁄ Match the type of bird and reason for control
All birds are protected by law, 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 a last resort. To ensure the law is adhered to, it is essential that the species is correctly identified, documented and a clear reason established as to why control is required.

There are many ‘pest control’ companies, but few with knowledge and experience of the complexities of bird control or bird legislation. Picking the wrong contractor can, at best, result in poor value for money or, at worst, litigation.
Contractors should be BPCA (British Pest Control Association) members and the technicians should be BASIS-PROMPT registered (Professional Register of Managers and Pest Technicians).

If using birds of prey, handlers should be Lantra certified – the UK’s Sector Skills Council for land-based and environmental industries. Pest companies should be able to demonstrate experience and offer many solutions so that you receive a control method that is right for you.

Bird proofing to prevent the birds from entering or landing at a location is one solution, and there are many options. These range from netting, spiking or an electrical deterrent with a small and harmless charge. There is even a gel that gives off an ultra-violet flame, only seen by the birds.

2⁄ Falconry
Sometimes bird proofing isn’t viable, for example the building size may make proofing impractical, it may be listed or you don’t want to spoil the appearance of the building. This is where falconry response can be an extremely effective method of control. The presence of a trained hawk or falcon encourages birds to establish a new pattern of behaviour without harming any of the nuisance bird population. Birds of prey need to be used in a sustained programme long enough to change the pest species habits.

When choosing falconry as an option, many people have the misconception that they just need someone with a bird of prey, but you wouldn’t use any dog for sniffing out explosives. Just like the dogs, working birds need to be specifically trained for the job, as do the handlers.

3⁄ Bird distress calls
Broadcasting audio recordings of the species’ own distress call warns birds such as gulls, starlings, rooks and crows that the area is not safe, causing them to disperse.
After installation, these systems require minimal maintenance and management, providing a cost effective solution. Some birds, 
such as pigeons, don’t have 
distress calls, so another option would have to be considered.

4⁄ Understand the timeframe

The timescale for any method to be effective depends upon the scale of the problem, the type of damage, environmental factors and attractions that may draw 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 if required.

5⁄ Evaluate the results
Controlling nuisance birds saves the cost of damage to buildings. Pigeons, gulls, starlings and other birds can cause extensive damage to facilities. This includes debris from nesting material and bird fouling, which can turn buildings into eyesores, as well as putting the foundations at risk from the acid in the droppings corroding bricks and paintwork.

A single gull’s nest can cause severe flood damage to several floors of a building by simply blocking the guttering and drainage, while aggressive noisy or noisy behaviour can affect business and productivity.

It is essential that the process is documented and evaluated right from the very start. You should be able to demonstrate that you have considered the situation carefully to protect yourself and demonstrate due diligence. The operations should be evaluated with bird counts before, during and after works to help in assessing the value of the procedure.

6⁄ Report the benefits
By properly considering non-lethal bird control methods, companies are demonstrating that they are ethical, moral and law-abiding. As well as meeting health and safety and bird protection legislation, projects can be incorporated into CSR reports and company PR.

John Dickson is managing director of NBC Bird & Pest Solutions