At some point in their lives, everyone will utter the words “stupid bird!” Most of us will probably put our own profanity-laden spin on it, to boot. Wherever there are people, there are birds, and wherever humans and nonhumans meet, conflict inevitably ensues. That’s not an understatement: even in Antarctica, one of the least hospitable environments in the world, the McMurdo staffers have to shoo penguins off the runway. (Yes, flightless birds on an airstrip—go ahead and laugh.)Of course, most of us will encounter more mundane problems with avian adversaries: stealing food from gardens, waking us up in the small hours of the morning, harassing us during backyard cookouts. Aside from being annoying—if not outright infuriating—feathered nuisances can also be dangerous: their droppings can lead to health problems and they can pose a hazard to small pets and sometimes a danger to larger ones and people as well. Luckily, there are many different ways to deal with a variety of birds in a myriad of circumstances. We can’t address all of them here, but we can take a look at the broad categories and some specific examples of each.
One of the most iconic ways of controlling birds is the scarecrow. Because most of us don’t want a classic, Halloweeny mannequin hanging around all year, many people opt for replicas of owls and other raptors that prey on small birds. Unfortunately, those small birds aren’t stupid, and they’ll quickly realize the hawk that never moves is a phony. You may get better results by periodically relocating your scarecrows, but this can become a time and labor-sapping endeavor.Another option is chicken wire or plastic netting. The problem with using this method around the home is that it is extremely unsightly—no one wants chicken wire wrapped around their house. Remember also that, if there’s a break in the mesh, birds will find a way through. Slightly less eyesore-inducing, but also less effective, are anti-roosting wires. Unlike chicken wire, which denies access to an area, these wires merely discourage birds by making roosting difficult or uncomfortable.You may also want to take a cue from law enforcement and use spike strips (or something comparable) to deny birds access to the horizontal surfaces that make prime roosting locations. This method’s effectiveness depends on the size of the bird and the density of the spikes, and to be most effective, it requires frequent cleaning.Finally, you may want to consider a repellent coating. These gels are cheap, practically invisible, and require little maintenance. They create a sticky, tacky coating that discourages birds from hanging around on the treated surface. They do, however, tend to harden up over time, so you’ll have to remove the prior coat (which can be difficult and damaging to the structure) and reapply.
The audible equivalent of scarecrows, recordings ofdistress calls and raptor calls can keep birds out of certain areas. The downside is that birds can distinguish a less-then-high-fidelity recording from the real thing, so quality is key to this method. Moreover, if bird noise is what you’re trying to eliminate, this obviously isn’t your best solution.Some people turn to ultrasonics (sounds above 20 kilohertz) as a means of bird deterrence. Because this is outside the normal, audible human range, it won’t bother any people in residence. On the other hand, because most birds have a similar range, they won’t hear it either. Nonetheless, the claim is that birds can still sense these high-frequency sounds, and some people have gotten results from this method.
If all else fails, set a trap. Once you’ve caught the offender, take it far, far away and let it fly free. Assuming that the bird finds a hospitable habitat, your problem is solved. This method is humane, but it is time consuming, especially when faced with a substantial number of birds.
These are the least desirable methods of dealing with a bird problem. They are inhumane to the birds and potentially dangerous for other animals and people. You should try the other methods, and combinations thereof, before considering the approaches listed here.Shooting is pretty straightforward. If you have a rifle and you’re a decent shot, then you stand a good chance of solving your problem. However, local laws may prohibit you from taking this approach, and even if they don’t, it becomes costly when dealing with a large number of birds. You can also use chemicals that birds ingest or absorb through their feet. This approach ranges from causing distress to outright killing the offending animal. Additionally, the substances are potentially dangerous to the environment as well as the person handling them. Think long and hard before settling on this method.The approaches described above will vary in effectiveness depending on your situation, including your location, the type of bird or birds you’re dealing with, and the specifics of your particular problem. If you find yourself in need of bird control, you should do your research so that you can find the right solution for your needs.