Buildings are not just for people. We mostly design, renovate or retrofit buildings for people but buildings also attract birds. Understanding how birds use buildings and taking actions to bird-proof your building during the construction phase will go a long way toward avoiding bird conflicts in the future.
Birds on Buildings
Most birds are attracted to water, woods or open environments, but buildings are ideal nesting, roosting or daytime hang-out spots for some birds. Pigeons, starlings, gulls, crows, swallows and house sparrows are the most common birds on buildings and should usually be encouraged to go elsewhere. Unfortunately, nests or droppings can pose a health or safety hazard or damage building structures.
Many buildings, especially those previously unoccupied, will have old bird nests or accumulations of droppings to be removed before construction can proceed. This can be a hazardous job, so hire professionals, or make sure to use appropriate cleaners, such as Opticide disinfectants and waste digesters—cleaners that are specifically designed to clean up biological wastes and kill potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses. Guidelines for cleaning up wildlife excrement are published by the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.
Determine how birds are currently using the building. Are they nesting or roosting on ledges, under eaves, or in vents and other structures? Are gulls, crows or other birds spending the day on the roof? Identify structures birds are using so they can be removed or modified to deter birds from using them.
In addition, don’t build new structures that will attract birds, such as:
- Ledges or sheltered areas where birds can nest.
- Large flat spaces or rooftops with good views where gulls and other birds can congregate.
- Open spaces under air conditioning or other mechanical units on the roof.
- Vents or other holes larger than 1 inch in diameter that open into larger spaces where starlings or house sparrows can nest.
It is always better to make buildings less attractive to birds than to try and scare birds away from a building they like. Most bird problems can be avoided by good design or by installing physical deterrents that make the building less attractive to birds.
Making a building unattractive to birds doesn’t have to make it unattractive to people. There are a wide range of solutions for most bird control problems. In general, deter birds on top of buildings with bird spikes or less-visible electric jolt flat tracks or shock tracks. These electric systems provide a low-voltage, humane shock to the feet of birds that will not harm them but will condition them to avoid the area. Birds in or underneath building structures are most easily excluded with durable and virtually invisible bird netting.
The following options can make these building features less attractive to birds:
- Rooftops—A line of bird wire suspended above the ridge line or a bird jolt flat track or shock track is effective where spikes are not desired. It is most important to treat roof edges and ridgelines where birds have the best visibility of their surroundings.
- Ledges—Bird slopes (long angled strips mounted on ledges to make them into slippery slopes instead of flat nesting and roosting surfaces) and plastic or stainless-steel spikes deter roosting or loafing. Flat electric tracks can be used where spikes might be too obtrusive.
- Rafters and other covered surfaces—Bird netting eliminates nooks or ledges that can’t be otherwise sealed with structural materials.
- Vents and structural holes larger than 1 inch in diameter—Eliminate, make holes smaller, or cover with netting or durable materials that birds can’t bypass.
- Light poles and other elevated structures—Spikes or a bird spider (a series of flexible stainless-steel wires radiating out from a central hub) can make it impossible for larger birds to land and rest there.
Avoiding bird conflicts doesn’t have to be rocket science, but it does take some thought and planning. Be sure to get professional advice or assistance if needed, so people can enjoy your building without having to deal with avoidable bird problems.