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Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Techletter, a biweekly training letter for professional pest control technicians from Pinto & Associates. To subscribe, visit www.techletter.com.

A bird job, whether residential or commercial, should start with a survey of the site. A survey allows you to identify the pest birds, determine the size of the resident (or visiting) bird population, the birds’ activity patterns, the size of the boundaries of the site being affected, factors attracting the birds to the site and special considerations at the site.

Your company can’t accurately price a bird job without knowing such information and you can’t determine the appropriate control methods without a site survey.

Your pre-job survey might determine that there is not a pest bird problem, or the birds may have moved on by the time you get there. If you do find a problem, you should visit the site for a few days to determine exactly what is going on and how you can best address conditions and normal activity. Seeing the site at different times of day and on different days will give you a range of information. If the weather is bad, extend your survey days.

Keep notes on what you observe at each site visit. If your company doesn’t have a bird survey form, take a copy of this article with you and collect information in each of the categories below, noting the day and time. Make sure you have good binoculars, a map of the site, and a bird ID book or bird identification app. Here are the details for a 10-point pest bird job survey:

1. What is the bird species in question? Some birds are protected by law. Even if your bird job is a single bird nesting on a house, you have to know the answer to this most important question. Once you know the bird’s ID, you can determine its regulatory status and can research its habits for more information. Even though pigeons are not protected by federal laws, some localities protect them.

Surveying an account for few days and talking to people in the area can help determine how long the pest birds have been present.
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2. Are other birds besides the pest species using the site? If so, when? The presence of nontarget birds, and sometimes other animals, will affect the type of control you choose, especially if baiting. Some nontargets will feed on corn and mixed grain bird baits. Check on federal, state and local regulations regarding control or protection of all of the birds visiting the site.

3. What is the size of the site affected? How many birds are involved? For example, is the problem limited to one building rooftop or are several buildings involved? A large bird job might mean dealing with several building owners or local authorities.

4. What is attracting the birds to the site?

Is there plenty of available food and water, or are the birds drawn to the area for roosting sites such as protective ledges or rooftops? Sometimes changing or removing the attraction may be the only control needed.

5. Are the birds residents or migrant birds? Sometimes pest birds are just passing through, pausing for a few days before moving on. Migrating birds may be protected. Surveying for a few days and talking to people in the area can help determine how long the birds have been present. It may be a seasonal, temporary problem that resolves itself.

6. Where are the birds nesting, feeding, roosting and loafing? These may be the most important questions you can answer as they will tell you where to concentrate control measures, especially if baiting or trapping. Pigeons tend to use different sites for different activities and are easier to move out of part-time loafing sites than out of protected sites used for nesting.

7. At what time do the birds arrive at the site and leave the site? If you are using scare tactics or other dispersal techniques, you may want to time them to the birds’ arrival

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8. If you get the birds to leave the site, where are they likely to go instead? This can be important from a public relations standpoint if the birds simply move next door.

9. Is the affected site a good candidate for bird exclusion or habitat modification techniques? Would you be able to block the birds from their roosting or nesting sites with structural changes, netting, shock systems, or bird wire or spikes?

10. Could your control methods result in public relations problems for your customer or with the nearby community? If the account is in dense apartment communities or downtown areas, even nonchemical controls can result in complaints from people who feel the birds are being harassed.

When performing bird work in populated sites, keep a low profile, try to visit the site in off hours, and realize that certain control methods, such as shooting or frightening noises, may not be suitable. Educate your customer and any pertinent neighbors about the situation, what you plan to do and what they can expect.

The authors are well-known industry consultants and owners of Pinto & Associates, publishers of Techletter, a biweekly training aid for PMPs. To download a sample issue or subscribe, visit www.techletter.com.