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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, February/March 2008

Put Pest Birds in the Cage

Repellents, relocation, and exclusion can deter pesky birds

by Patrick T. Copps, MS, BCE

When it comes to pests, cockroaches, rodents, or flies generally spring to mind. Birds are often considered a mere nuisance, although these feathered critters can jeopardize food safety and employee health; they may even affect audit scores at food manufacturing facilities.

Birds can spread dangerous bacteria like Salmonella and have also been known to transmit a respiratory disease called histoplasmosis through their droppings. Birds can also cause costly property damage. Bird droppings, for example, can corrode metal and put expensive machinery at risk, while debris or feathers from nests can clog drains and gutters. Due to these concerns, food safety auditors inspect for and will make deductions if they see signs of bird nests or droppings around buildings. Some inspectors even require the use of proactive bird exclusion tactics.

Clearly, there are excellent reasons not to let other pests overshadow your bird management efforts this year. Work with a pest management professional to develop a treatment plan that targets the three most common pest birds: pigeons, starlings, and sparrows.

The first step toward implementing an effective program is monitoring your building for bird activity. Rooftops are one of the first places to look for signs of a bird problem. When it comes to perching and nesting, roofs and overhangs allow safe places for birds to congregate. Birds will typically gather on commercial properties for one of four reasons.

Social Creatures

First, birds will often gather simply to socialize with other birds, a phenomenon known as “loafing.” If this is the case at your building, their presence will probably be temporary, and they will be relatively easy to remove. Alternatively, birds may be drawn to the food and water often readily available at any food manufacturing facility. The best way to discourage feeding birds is to remove their food source. Keep in mind that even small amounts of food debris or leaking rooftop HVAC units can provide enough sustenance for these pests.

Birds are also attracted to rooftops and ledges, which can serve as roosting areas. Roosting birds are more difficult to remove than loafing or feeding birds, and they also leave destructive droppings on your building. Once birds nest and begin to raise young, they are extremely difficult to relocate. Birds will overcome many obstacles to return to their nesting site and their young; thus, it’s important to take steps to prevent them from nesting in the first place.

After working with a pest management professional to determine why birds are gathering around your facility, choose the appropriate plan. Repellents, exclusion, and relocation are the three most common bird control techniques.

Make Them Uncomfortable

Whether physical, chemical, or electronic, repellents discourage loafing and roosting birds by making them uncomfortable. Physical repellents like bird spikes can prevent birds from perching on ledges. Chemical agents such as gels can simulate a sticky feeling on their feet. Finally, electronic methods, including noisemakers, can frighten birds away. While they can be effective, repellents may have a limited impact, particularly when large numbers of birds are involved.

Exclusion methods can prohibit birds from nesting at your facility. Look for common areas where birds might make nests, such as underneath HVAC units or other places that may provide shelter from the weather. Hire a professional to install netting that prevents access to these areas. Relocation involves removing birds from the facility in an ethical and safe manner, usually with traps or nets. Only trained professionals should attempt to relocate birds.

When dealing with a pest bird issue, keep in mind that any bird management program must be tailored to a specific species and situation to be effective. Most importantly, bird management needs to be conducted in the safest manner possible and in accordance with local and federal guidelines, where applicable. With a comprehensive bird control program and the help of a licensed pest management professional, you can prevent birds from affecting your facility.

Copps is technical services manager for Orkin’s Pacific Division. Reach him at pcopps@rollins.com or, for more information, visit www.orkincommercial.com.

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