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30 August 2018

Choosing the right tools for effective bird management

Technical | PPC92 September 2018

Bird control products are continually evolving. It can be hard to keep up with the latest developments and to understand which products work best in a particular situation. We asked Dan England, Director of PestFix, to take us under his wing and explain what factors affect the tools we should choose and why.

Spreading your wings

SPEED VIEW:

  • Bird control products play an important part but can’t be relied on as standalone solutions
  • Consider bird pressure, environment, access and your customer to make the perfect management plan
  • Bird control could be compared to firefighting fuelled by shelter, food and ability to reproduce
  • Bird control products are not substitutes for good housekeeping so manage your client’s expectations
  • Products fall into two categories: proofing or dispersal

In recent years we have seen the introduction of laser technology, electric shock tracks and optical olfactory gels, never before used in mainstream bird control applications. Around the corner and fast approaching come contraception systems to control bird population numbers, already making an impact in Spain, Italy and the USA. Choosing a product, or indeed an array of products, for bird management might seem daunting at first, however, the process is about understanding what any given job might require and how to implement your control plan.

Bird control products play an important part of any integrated avian pest management programme, yet they are seldom to be relied upon as a standalone solution.

Selecting the appropriate bird control package to bring to bear on an avian pest infestation is influenced by several factors, these must be taken into account before making any final decisions on the appropriate course of action.

Typical bird proofing productsExamples of dispersal products
Netting Bioacoustic distress callers
Antiperch spike Ultrasonic emitters
Post and wire Lasers
Grid wire Hawk kite
Welded mesh Optical gel
Chimney guards Electric shock track

Bird pressure

The level of bird pressure can be defined as: the level of resistance encountered when routing an infestation of pest birds.
On every survey ask yourself:

  • Is there a compelling reason for the birds to be here?
  • What is the likelihood they will want to return?

The higher the pressure, the fewer product choices you will have.

Low pressureMedium pressureHigh pressure
Daytime perching and sun-baking. Night roosting and access to natural food sources. Nesting and access to artificial food sources.
Pretty much any product is at your disposal, provided good housekeeping is being practised. Bird spikes, post and wire, optical gel, hawk kites, lasers, electric shock track, grid wire and bioacoustics. Netting, welded mesh and chimney guards.

Access and maintenance

Working at height and fragile roofs are just two of many access and maintenance challenges that face bird control technicians. Available access is a key part of the decision-making process, not only for the installation but also for ongoing maintenance.

For example, there is no point in installing a hawk kite system on the highest point of structure (optimal) if you have to hire a cherry-picker.

The environment

Opting for certain types of bird control product can have an environmental impact. Some scaring products use audible sound, which can cause a noise issue with residents. Bird control netting can drastically alter the visual appearance of a customer site.

Careful consideration would also need to be taken as to how the proposed solution would impact on non-target species also present in the affected area, ie small garden birds squeezing through and becoming trapped behind large-mesh seagull netting.

The customer

All too often your customer will have preconceived ideas of what they do and do not want as a solution. “We don’t want netting because its ugly” or “we don’t want lasers, they are too expensive”.

It’s important that the surveyor is not influenced by these often ill-conceived notions from the client. A thorough survey of the site to identify the sources of the infestation should be undertaken to avoid the survey being ‘railroaded’.

Fire engines and site surveys

Get the survey right, and the project will run as smooth as silk, get it wrong, and the project could become a costly sow’s ear!

Bird control could be compared to firefighting. The infestation is fuelled by one or more of three factors:

  • The ability to shelter from the elements/predators
  • The availability of food and water
  • The ability to reproduce.

The last point is directly affected by the availability of points one and two. Consider these three elements as the seat of the fire, the fuel.

Often the side effects of a bird infestation are worse than the cause, ie fouling, noise, aggression or blocked gutters. These side effects are akin to the smoke. If you take away the fuel that feeds the fire, then the smoke will clear by itself.

Always look for and fight the seat of the fire and not its side effects (the smoke). All too often your customer will demand that their entire building is proofed with netting, spikes or other high-cost solutions, when a straightforward yet well-informed site-survey could identify the root cause of the infestation and remove it, at a fraction of the cost, causing the side-effects to clear with it.

I am often called to site to support customers where bird proofing installations have gone wrong because a considerable amount of time and money has been invested in dealing with the side effects, yet the root cause of the problem (such as a nest site, night roost or artificial food source) has not been closed off and the problem persists. By this stage the client is reticent to invest further, and it can be difficult to rescue the situation.

Once you have conducted your thorough site survey and educated your client as to the source of the problem, you will likely have identified some housekeeping practices that need to be improved by them. Nobody enjoys telling their customers that the cause of their bird infestation is a result of sloppy hygiene or housekeeping, however it is all too often the case. Poor building maintenance, doors left open, and food waste not being properly managed are all contributing factors. Bird control products are not a substitute for good housekeeping, so be sure to manage your client’s expectations. Using proofing or dispersal products as a ‘sticking plaster’ over a housekeeping issue without tackling the source of the problem will only come back and haunt you. It will also give the selected bird control solution an undeserved bad name.

Okay, so you have conducted your survey, identified the source of the infestation and educated your customer to mend their ways if needed. Only now should you start making informed decisions about the best products or solutions to select in your assault on the problem.

Available options will appear many and varied. However, one can follow a simple process of elimination to arrive at a shortlist of one or two suitable products.

Proofing or dispersal? Mitigate or eliminate?

Bird control products fall into two simple categories:

  • Proofing involves physically excluding the birds from the area to be protected
  • Dispersal consists in creating a sense of danger in the affected area that causes the birds to leave. ‘Scaring’ them away or re-educating them that the area is dangerous.

This is a simple choice influenced by the client’s needs and the scale of the infested area.

If the client insists on a 100% cast-iron, bird-free solution, then only bird proofing products should be considered.

If the scale of the area is so great that proofing it would be impractical or the client wishes merely to mitigate, not eliminate the problem, then dispersal products can also be considered.

So, how do you narrow the decision down? This takes you back to the three key elements of bird pressure, access and environment (see the table above).

Bird pressure should always be the first consideration, following which access and the environment needs to be jointly considered.

For example, a large industrial roof made from asbestos cement sheet may be crying out for bird netting, but due to the fragile nature of the roof, your options may be reduced to lasers, bio-acoustics or hawk kites. At this stage in the decision-making process, the client needs to have their expectations managed, as we move from an absolute proofing product (bird netting) to a range of mitigating dispersal products.

If the roof is close to residential properties, then bioacoustics may not be appropriate due to noise nuisance, leaving you with just lasers and hawk kites. Due to the scale of the roof, you may need many hawk kites dispersed across the roof at different locations, so maintenance access becomes an issue on the fragile roof.

So, by process of elimination, you are left with laser technology, which can cover a large surface area from a single point, reducing maintenance costs.

Standalone or holistic?

Bird proofing products generally work well as a standalone solution due to the absolute barrier they provide. Bear in mind a bird proofing product will only protect the immediate area upon which they are installed and no more, comprehensive coverage of the affected area is essential.

Bird dispersal products tend to work better as part of a holistic approach which may include other products or integration with more traditional services. For example, bioacoustic bird scarers work much more effectively when they are used in conjunction with either falconry or hawk kites - each solution reinforces the other. Lasers work well in off-peak season nest sites for seagulls, but it is recommended that they are supported by nest and egg removal during peak season.

Many products have a symbiotic relationship both to each other and many of the traditional methods of bird control.

Want to learn more about bird control?

BPCA runs a Certificate in Bird Management course – find out more at:
bpca.org.uk/bird-management

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Dan EnglandDan England
Pestfix
September 2018 | PPC92

Source: PPC92

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