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When consumers are considering the types of pests that cause problems in a building or on a property, birds likely aren’t among the first that come to mind, but they can be surprisingly troublesome if left unchecked. The most obvious problem birds can cause is the unsightly presence of droppings that accumulate when they gather in large numbers. They frequently congregate on ledges high above the ground, including the edges of roofs, HVAC units, awnings above doors, window sills and overhangs near receiving docks. These are typical locations that attract birds — and the surfaces below often display the evidence.

Birds can be harmful to more than a building’s image, however. Their droppings and debris can transmit more than 60 diseases, including salmonella, meningitis and encephalitis, as well as respiratory ailments such as histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis. The uric and nitric acids in bird feces eat away at building materials such as metal, paint, plastic and stone. Accumulations of droppings and other debris from their nests can obstruct gutters and cause water damage to the structure. Birds are often hosts to a variety of ectoparasites, such as bird mites, ticks and bird lice, while their nests provide breeding grounds for cockroaches and other insects.

PLANS FOR CONTROL. While pests such as rodents and insects require constant vigilance and well-placed equipment to detect, bird problems are much easier to identify. Thorough inspection still plays a crucial role in identifying specific problem areas, but the signs are recognizable to anyone paying attention. The most obvious sign is the presence of birds themselves and other indicators include deposits of bird droppings, especially when they come in contact with people.

While detecting a bird problem is a fairly simple process, treatments are often more complex. Bird control solutions frequently require a highly customized combination of methods suited to a building or property’s unique layout. There are hundreds of products designed to address specific issues — options include physical deterrents such as spikes, bird wire and netting. Behavior modification programs such as chemical repellents, and sonic and visual deterrents, also are viable options. A specialized bird management professional will recommend a custom solution after a thorough inspection of the facility and an in-depth discussion with the property manager to go over which combination is right for their bird problems.

It is important for PMPs to be familiar with the products and the manufacturers’ recommendations for installation. Due to the need to work on rooftops, balconies, scaffolding and other areas high above the ground, a bird control specialist should be able to provide proof of lift certification, OSHA certification and insurance against falls and other jobsite accidents. Many states also require a specific license for working in the bird management field. With the exception of pigeons, starlings and sparrows, which are considered invasive species, birds are protected by a variety of federal and state regulations. In addition to the legal considerations, any bird control program should account for the affinity people have for birds. Although certain bird species may not be protected, it is always important to be humane and professional in all aspects of bird management.

Parasites, diseases and structural damage are probably not among the things customers think of when they see birds, but they can be just as troublesome as their more reviled counterparts. It is important to consider a plan for bird control solutions just as thoroughly as treatments for bugs and rodents, even if they don’t require the same level of daily vigilance.

The author is the division manager for bird management services at Rentokil North America and is an expert on humane solutions to bird management problems.