Whatever methods are used, the first step is always to identify the birds causing the problem, and to discover what is attracting them. Once these are determined, there are usually two options: remove what is attracting the bird, or exclude the bird. |
Generally the most successful methods rely on exclusion and/or habitat modification. One means of exclusion is to frighten birds away. Unfortunately most "scare tactics" repel birds for only a short time, if at all. Included here are noise generators such as fireworks, firearm explosives (shell crackers), propane cannons, units that broadcast bird distress calls, and even ultrasonic devices generating sounds that neither people nor birds can hear. Devices that can be heard, can be as irritating to people as they are to birds.
Other scare devices are visual. These include expensive laser light "hazing" systems that are useful for repelling birds such as geese, crows, and pigeons. But flashing lights, flags, balloons, scare eyes, hawk/owl/snake likenesses, aluminum pie pans, and yes – even the classic scarecrow – are generally ineffective. When they do work, the effect lasts only a short while – until the birds become used to the device, or move elsewhere for reasons not associated with the device. In most instances, the success of scare devices is highly variable and depends on the type and number of birds, attractiveness of the site and alternate sites, timing (once established at a site, birds become more difficult to scare away), the type of devices used (it is best to use two or more devices in combination), and the skill and persistence of persons using the devices. In most cases, if control is to be achieved, the scare tactics must be employed consistently for three or four days. If the desired result is not seen within seven days, try something else.
More effective means of exclusion exist. These methods use caulk, metal wool, screen wire or hardware cloth to seal nesting and roosting spots on building exteriors. Where birds are feeding on fruit trees or roosting in small trees, the trees can be wrapped with netting to exclude them. As a rule, the following screen/net mesh sizes are best: ¾-inch for sparrows, 1 1/8-inch for starlings and 2 ½-inch for pigeons. Similarly, parts of structures used by drumming woodpeckers can be screened, netted, or filled with caulk, foam or other material to reduce the resonance, making them less attractive drumming sites.
When birds get inside buildings, mist netting can be used – but again, only for unprotected bird species. A mist net consists of very fine mesh that birds don't see until they fly into it and become entrapped. The net should be strung across the bird's flyways within the structure. Other areas may need to be blocked off, e.g., with sheets of plastic or cloth, to encourage the birds to fly toward the mist net.
To deter birds from landing on structures, especially commercial buildings, bridges, statues, etc., the use of netting, monofilament line, and wire springs, coils and spikes – even electrified wire – is recommended. These methods can be labor intensive, expensive and often require the services of a bird management professional, but provide control that is effective and permanent.
In addition to exclusion, habitat modification can be employed. Where flocks are roosting in trees, the trees can be pruned or thinned, making them less accommodating. In some cases, removal of the bird's food and water sources is a practical and effective means of control. Rock and dense vegetation "barriers" can be planted along the shoreline of lakes and ponds to hinder geese attempting to come ashore. Dogs also can be effective when trained to chase the birds.
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