Birds: An underestimated and potentially deadly pest
When people think of birds, they often conjure pleasant mental images like the first day of spring or a songbird chirping in the morning. People generally love birds. But they can be just as harmful as more maligned pests.
Bird droppings and debris can transmit more than 60 diseases, including salmonella, meningitis, and encephalitis, as well as respiratory ailments such histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis. Droppings and debris can block gutters and other drainage systems, leading to water damage.
Bird droppings are acidic and can eat away at building materials such as paint, metal, plastic, vinyl, and stone and damage statues and sculptures. Birds often carry ectoparasites, including ticks, bird mites, and lice and their nests can act as breeding grounds for other insects, such as cockroaches. In addition, the presence of bird droppings creates unsafe conditions when on walkways and is unsightly and can be harmful to a healthcare facility's image and reputation.
Birds are drawn to healthcare facilities for several reasons:
Broad, flat rooftops provide an ideal location for nest-building, safely above ground where predators lurk.
HVAC units and gutters provide protection from both predators and the elements.
Many times, these facilities have outdoor courtyards, including shrubbery and trees that are very attractive to birds and water features such as ponds, which can draw ducks and geese to the property.
Overhangs near receiving docks also attract birds, especially if there are nearby dumpsters and trash compactors that contain discarded food.
Any time employees or residents are feeding birds, intentionally or unintentionally, it encourages them to remain close to the facility.
Unlike infestations of insects and rodents that often require in-depth inspection and constant monitoring to detect, a bird problem is fairly simple to diagnose. While a thorough inspection is still necessary to identify specific problem areas, the signs are much easier to recognize. The first and most obvious is the presence of birds themselves on rooftops, ledges, window sills and other areas where they typically perch.
Other indicators include deposits of bird droppings beneath ledges, overhangs, and doorways and the presence of nests and nesting materials such as twigs and feathers.
Bird control solutions rarely involve only one product or program. The unique layout of each long-term care facility and its surroundings calls for a customized solution involving a combination of several methods. These methods range from chemical repellents to physical deterrents such spikes, netting, bird wire, sonic devices, and others determined by a trained professional after thorough inspection of the facility.
There are hundreds of products that address specific issues, and providing customized, comprehensive solutions involves an in-depth discussion with the facility manager to go over which combinations of products will work for their bird problems.
When treating a bird problem, keep in mind the high level of sensitivity required for the treatment. With the exception of pigeons, sparrows, and starlings – which are considered invasive species – birds are protected by a variety of state and federal regulations. In addition to the legal complexities, any bird control solution must take into account the affinity people have for birds. While any pest management program should be humane, it is especially important to rid a facility of birds using non-lethal methods.
Because of the complexities and sensitivities involved, the job is best done by a trained bird control professional. The need for highly customized solutions – not to mention the safety precautions needed to install deterrents on rooftops, balconies, and ledges – requires the expertise of a specialist. Despite these complications, a skilled bird control professional will be able to provide facility managers with a clear set of recommendations, customized to the unique challenges of the healthcare center, to send birds away and ensure they don't return.
Kim Lewis is the Division Manager for Bird Management Services at Rentokil Steritech and is an expert on humane solutions to bird management problems.