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It’s Monday morning. You get a call from one of your grocery store clients that there is a bird flying around the produce section. They need it removed before they get fined by the health department. You have a decision to make.

Actually, the way I see it, you have one of three decisions to make. Do you tell the client this is not a covered pest and let them find someone else, do you use a sub-contractor or do you do the work “in-house?” Of course, grocery stores are not the only place where interior birds can be a pest. Other types of buildings that can “host” pest birds include warehouses, factories and airport terminals. Any building with enough open space for the pest bird to find all its physical needs (food, water and shelter) is a prime target.

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WHAT TO DO? Let’s dive a little into the pros and cons for each of these decisions you might make:

Saying No. Not doing the bird control work and just focusing on the “general pest work” might be the easiest option, but it may not be your best option. You may be leaving your backside open to a competitor who understands the term “bird-only client.” Your client now must call another company that also may do the same general pest work as you. Your client will most likely tell them, “I only need a quote for the bird work, I’m happy with my current provider for everything else.” If your competitor is smart, they will say, “OK, that’s fine. Do you mind if I check in with you every couple of months to make sure you’re still happy with your current provider?”

You already see where this is headed. The only exception to this option is if you get a call about a bird of prey. All pest birds we deal with as pest management professionals are prey birds unless we also happen to be an expert in birds of prey like hawks, falcons, owls and eagles. Birds of prey are outside most PCOs’ wheelhouses, including myself. If the bird inside your client’s location is a bird of prey, the best option is to refer them to a specialist you should already have a relationship with.

Subbing it Out. Working with a sub- contractor is your best option if you just don’t have the ability to effectively perform the work yourself. Obviously, I recommend you work with someone you trust and does not (or will not) offer your client the same services you do. Try to have pre-established pricing and expectations with both your clients and the sub-contractor already in place before you get that Monday morning call.

Make sure your client understands the importance of calling you right away before the pest bird(s) become established inside their facility. Set reasonable response expectations, allowing a couple of days before responding to account for the occasional “bird got out on its own” scenario. Having a preset “not to exceed” cost in place is a good idea to minimize wasted time with approvals. This type of work is specialized and usually done by someone with a different skill set and personality than a route technician. Allow for travel time and costs, especially for remote locations. This is not route work, this is not a covered pest. Someone with very specific skills and equipment needs to travel to the location for what will amount to a one-time job.

Do it Yourself. Keeping the work “in-house” is obviously the preferred option, but not at the expense of damaging your relationship with your client because your company cannot solve the pest bird challenge within a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost. Like with any other “specialty” services, i.e., bed bugs or mosquitoes, you can’t just jump into bird services without getting your team up to speed with the right training and equipment.

Performing bird work is the next level specialization because pest birds add several layers of complexity, including legal protection, mobility, intelligence and my favorite, what I call the “Bird Yin/Yang.” That’s when someone says, “I love the birds, but I hate their poop.” Birds are the pest you will get the most pushback from the general public with questions like: “Why do you have to remove the birds? What are you going to do to the birds? How do you sleep at night?” The people who love the birds that are being a pest are usually not the same ones that have to clean and deal with the risks associated with their droppings. If you are going to do this type of work, make sure you know what you’re getting into and how you are going to execute it.

Birds in grocery stores are of particular concern because of their droppings landing on food. Are you prepared to offer your customers bird control in addition to general pest control services?

YOU TAKE IT ON. So, let’s assume you are going to proceed with either of the two latter options. Whether you are going to use a sub-contractor or do it yourself, you will still need to know how to manage the relationship with the client and enough about the work to speak intelligently to both the sub-contractor and the client.

You also will need to train your team to deal with the “Bird Yin/Yang” issues. Some bird species are not protected and may need to be humanely euthanized. You will be surprised how many technicians have no problem dispatching a rat but will balk at the thought of doing the same to a pigeon. More than train, you must educate your team.

The difference between training and educating is understanding “the why!” Make sure everyone understands the risks associated with these pest birds inside your client’s locations, especially locations that handle food. Also, never lie to your direct client contact about the details of your solutions. What they tell their employees and patrons is their business, so only discuss the details of your solution with your client contact and direct everyone else to them.

It’s also a good idea to have a set of questions your team member(s) can ask the client when calling you to remove pest birds from inside a building. Here are a few:

  • Who can we call before arriving to perform the service and what is their direct cell phone number? This will save a lot of heartache since most of this work is done after regular business hours.
  • Do you know the bird species and approximately how many birds are in the building? If not, can you send me a picture or describe the bird? While most birds are protected, the ones that usually get into buildings are not.
  • Train your team on proper identification and legal protection.
  • How long have the bird(s) been in the building and what has already been tried to get them out?
  • What time of day and where are the bird(s) most active?

One of the most effective solutions for removing non-protected pest birds from inside a building is a highly trained technician using a specialized air rifle. However, it is also one of the most controversial solutions. Make sure this option is legal in your area and the client has provided written authorization. If using this option, make sure everyone involved knows the details of your service and as few people as possible at the same time. When I say everyone, I mean store manager, store security and especially the local police.

Get in the habit of calling the local police non-emergency number at least one hour before arriving at the location. Tell them who you are, what you will be doing and where. Do this even if your service will only be inside. Someone may be able to see you through a window and mistake you for someone doing bad things. I promise you do not want to be on the wrong side of that confrontation. When I say as few people as possible, make sure only people inside the location who need to know what you are doing, know what you are doing.

Other effective solutions for removing pest birds from inside a building are mist nets and specialized baited traps. I find a lot of polarity when it comes to mist nets; PCOs either love them or hate them. The people who “hate” them oftentimes just need the proper training. They are quite easy to use and highly effective once you know a few basics. When it comes to trapping, you must consider what is readily available and what the bird is looking for. For example, should you bait with nesting material or food?

FINAL THOUGHTS. Every service for interior pest bird removal, whether done by you or your sub-contractor, should include an inspection and report for you to inform the client of the conducive conditions that led to the pest bird entry in the first place. Like with most other pests, open doors are a big one, but so are damaged dock doors and seals. Storing pallets or other equipment near doors is also problematic when dealing with pest bird entry. Add value to your bird removal services by educating the client on the very reasons they needed the service in the first place.

Rolando “Rolie” Calzadilla is the owner of Pest Wildlife Pro in Miami, Fla. His firm provides specialized wildlife services for birds, bees, bats and iguanas throughout South Florida. Calzadilla is dually licensed in Florida as a PCO and general contractor. He also serves as the secretary of the board for NWCOA (National Wildlife Control Operator’s Association). He can be reached via email at rolie@pestwildlifepro.com.