While trying to impress my young sons years ago at a marina-based restaurant while on vacation in Cape Cod, Mass., I inadvertently contributed to the growing brazen behaviors of seagulls. A group of seagulls was hovering and diving onto our table. Rather than discouraging this behavior, I encouraged it by throwing French fries into the air while watching the seagulls catch them in mid-flight. Our young sons could not contain their excitement as they began throwing their French fries into the air for the hungry birds to catch as well. Although this was quite entertaining for our family (except maybe for my wife), it was not good for the restaurant or for the marina as we contributed to a new learned behavior for the seagulls.

While doing research for this article, I learned that gull populations have surged throughout the United States since the 1950s and their living ranges have expanded beyond beach communities and marinas. Seagulls are now seen inland due to increasing human development and the creation of unlimited food supplies that are available in landfills and other waste-handling facilities. Seagulls have become adaptable to areas where humans live and gull nesting is common on rooftops and other structures.

To prevent seagulls from nesting in commercial structures, Bird Doctor Nationwide uses several types of products to help control these bird pests.

CONTROL PRODUCTS. To help combat seagull nesting, gull grid wire systems, also known as gull wire systems or gull parallel wire systems, have become popular by bird deterrent installation companies for the control of seagulls (a variety of suppliers offer such products, including Bird-B-Gone, Bird Barrier, Seagull Control Systems and more). Control products can be used on commercial rooftops, exteriors of restaurants, pool and outdoor areas at resorts/hotels, marinas, parking lots and garages, courtyards, over fish farms, ponds, and lakes. A gull grid wire system consists of installing telescopic posts or poles around the outermost perimeter of the rooftop. Then tensioned wire is installed horizontally in a checkered square pattern at approximately 3-foot intervals and is attached to the telescopic poles.

We utilize an orange-colored nylon-coated gull wire, which is visible to the gulls and also is visible to any maintenance workers that are on the rooftop. For extra visibility we install short strips (3 to 6 inches) of Mylar flash tape every 4 to 6 feet to the wires. This prevents seagulls from landing on the roof. A seagull’s wingspan is wide when in flight so it’s hard for them to penetrate and land on a roof with a control system in place. Seagulls learn quickly that this roof is not safe for them when they try to land on it. Our firm recommends installing the telescopic poles at 6 to 8 feet above the roof so maintenance workers have full access to the roof. For added protection gull wire also can be installed vertically on all the sides of the perimeter of the system. We have seen numerous times where HVAC technicians refuse to work on their equipment on rooftops until the seagull issue is resolved. Seagulls can be quite aggressive when humans come into their nesting site space. Seagull nesting is typically April through July and it is common for seagulls to nest on or under HVAC equipment.

LIABILITY ISSUES. Another issue is that seagull feces, feathers and nesting material can clog up the ventilation system on the roof, which can spread airborne diseases throughout the building. Seagull droppings are a health hazard that can cause diseases such as ornithosis, E. coli and salmonella. Droppings also can cause structural damage and block gutters. These clogged gutters can result in heavy build-up on the roof, causing the roof to collapse. Also, droppings on the ground can be an issue if a customer or employee slips and falls. Needless to say this may be a liability issue resulting in a lawsuit. Seagulls also have been known to peck on the roof membrane, causing damage to the roof, which causes leaks to the interior of the building. They also will drop seashells and bones from above onto the roof. This can be particularly problematic if there are solar panels on the rooftop. The falling seashells and bones can cause the solar panels to shatter.

All debris should be removed from the rooftops to avoid workers from stepping on it and puncturing the roof membrane. In fact, prior to starting a gull grid wire installation, the rooftop should be disinfected and cleaned of all droppings, feathers, carcasses, nesting material and debris. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn by workers for their health and safety when providing a dropping clean-up. Also, proper disinfectants and cleaning materials should be used for the dropping cleanup. Power washing is not the solution. (A full article can be written just on the proper cleaning protocols of bird droppings!)

When installing the grid wire system, it is recommended to use stainless steel products or UV-resistant polycarbonate fiber products to prevent rusting and corrosion. Great caution should be taken while installing the gull grid wire system, as you don’t want to penetrate the roof membrane or compromise your client’s roof membrane warranty. Pads can be installed under the telescopic posts to protect the integrity of the roof membrane.

Left: A full grid wire installation with telescopic poles. Right: An attached gull gridwire on a commercial bird control job.

MAINTENANCE PROGRAM. Finally, it is recommended to have an annual bird control inspection/maintenance program. The maintenance program and on-site annual physical inspection will ensure that all hardware is functioning properly. In fact, we recommend an annual maintenance program with any type of bird deterrent installation. Whenever your company’s “good name” is associated to any bird deterrent installation system, it is wise to maintain good client communications, apprising them of any issues or additional work needed. This is a good business practice and also builds your yearly recurring bird work.

While I have focused on the grid wire system in this article, there are numerous other effective methodologies to control seagulls, such as installing bird spikes, bird netting, electrified tracks, fishing line, Daddi Long Legs/bird spiders, bird slope/bird slides, sonic devices, sound deterrents (including gull distress calls), visual frightening devices, flash tape, balloons, propane canons, repellers, trained dogs, pyrotechnics, toxicants (only with proper permitting), and lethal methods are available in certain instances but absolutely require a federal depredation permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

So with this full arsenal of services in our toolbox, all I can say is seagulls beware! You can now enjoy your seaside dinner with your family without flying visitors snatching your fries from the table!

Stuart Aust is a senior adviser for Anticimex and the former president of Bird Doctor Nationwide, Paramus, N.J. Learn more at www.birddoctorinc.com.