Not all birds are pests, but the ones that are, can pose serious threats/risks to your operations. So, the sooner you tackle a pest bird challenge, the easier it will be to resolve. Identifying and resolving a pest bird challenge before it becomes a problem will not only save you money, but it may just keep you out of court.
Whether you are a hospital, a food processing plant or a municipality, identifying and resolving a pest bird challenge always involves the same process. You need to answer the following questions before even considering how you are going to resolve or stop the birds from even becoming a pest:
- What is the pest bird species? There are over 2,000 species of birds in North America and the vast majority are protected (federal/state/local). Work with your local pest/wildlife control professional for assistance with this process and know whether the pest bird is protected in your area. Generally, migrating birds are federally protected while native/indigenous birds are protected by the state and some municipalities establish local bird sanctuary laws to protect most (if not all) birds within a certain local area of interest. A “lower” level of government can’t reduce protection, but it can add it. Knowing the pest bird species and its protection status will help you identify the pest bird’s behavior and start to narrow down your options for a solution.
- What are these birds doing that makes them a pest? Most of the time, it’s because of what I like to call their nastiness. Their excrement and propensity to “drop” it pretty much anywhere the urge hits, is the No. 1 reason for the existence of my chosen profession. Or like I always say: “No. 2 is No. 1!” Fun fact: The average pigeon weighs one pound and drops 25 pounds of excrement per year. To put that into perspective, the average American weighs 181 pounds and 25 times that number is 4,525 pounds. Now multiply that number by the number of citizens your municipality services, and you can begin to imagine the scale and magnitude of your water and sewer department. While we let that last thought sink in, another “nasty” reason has to do with their nests and the parasitic insects they can harbor. These pests can infest a structure when a nest is removed or abandoned by a migrating bird. Other reasons include their feeding behavior, aggressiveness and destructive behavior. Examples of these other behaviors are when a gull steals food from the hands of an unsuspecting toddler at the park. When nesting starlings swoop down on a senior citizen who walked too close to their nests while visiting city hall. When turkey vultures destroy the equipment on the police department’s communication tower because they can.
- Where are these birds behaving badly? The specific location is also important to the solution because there are no “silver bullet” bird solutions. No one solution can solve every problem for every bird behaving badly in every possible location. Aside from the species and behavior, the specific location where the bird is behaving badly is going to have a big impact on how you are going to resolve this challenge.
It’s the combination of who, what and where that can make an otherwise beautiful and amazing creature of nature someone’s worst nightmare. If you don’t believe me, just ask the bus mechanic (probably a union member) who must clean up the overnight mess of pigeon waste in their workspace every morning.
The risks (liabilities) your municipality can be exposed to by these situations are exponentially lower if you are proactive, and moreover, preventative in your approach to their resolution. These risks can be broadly categorized as health, safety, regulatory, brand and property damage.
- Health covers diseases and other ways birds, and their droppings can affect the well-being of employees and guests. Cross-contamination of sensitive areas is a serious risk when people walk over the droppings and track them inside. Indoor air quality can be reduced when birds build their nests on or near HVAC equipment.
- Safety covers several topics. What people do when they are being attacked by a bird and lose situational awareness, like on a roof or near a street, for example. Or when birds build their nests inside buildings and cause the risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning, especially when they build these nests in an exhaust vent, for example.
- Regulatory mainly affects locations where people are at higher risk from the previous two categories (sick, elderly, young and anywhere food is handled or served). It covers the risks from governing bodies (health department/U.S. Food and Drug Administration/United States Department of Agriculture) that can shut them down or severely affect their operation for pest bird activity in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Brand is the least tangible but can be the costliest. This is the name of the municipality itself and/or its leaders being reported in connection with any of the above risks being exposed in a very public way.
- Property damage can be physical damage to the structure and surrounding areas like trees and vegetation or damage to products inside the building mainly from accumulations of droppings or water from roof damage. This is likely the most tangible (easiest to quantify).
Are you beginning to connect the dots? In today’s hypersensitive, social media world, where everyone has a high-definition video camera that instantly connects to the internet, oh and by the way, makes phone calls … you cannot afford the luxury of waiting for a pest bird challenge to metastasize into a problem.