Birds sing sweet songs, show off their lovely feathers, and keep down pesky insect populations. That, however, is only half the story. Birds can also be annoyingly noisy, carry diseases, make their nests where they are not invited, and leave droppings all over the place. From afar we tend to see the better part of birds; once they are using our house or property as a nesting and feeding ground their negative attributes become all too apparent.
If you are wondering how to keep birds away from your house or business, have no fear– you can definitely take control of the situation and evict any and all birds who have decided your attic is a cozy place to winter or that your gutters are an ideal spot to raise their young.
Before you get started, consider these main categories of bird control and the approach you would like to take:
- Deterrents are used where birds perch or roost; they scare, annoy, or irritate birds into leaving.
- Passive measures, including removing food sources and nesting locations.
- Chemical repellents, both synthetic and organic.
- Exclusion (process of expelling birds from a building and barring future entry).
- Integrated pest management (IPM), which combines many pest control measures into one plan
Knowing how to keep birds away isn’t so difficult once you understand the habits of the bird you are dealing with and the options available to you as a home or business owner.
Bird deterrents and repellents
Deterrents are often used when birds are settling in on your property in flocks. Spikes for pigeons, electric shock strips for seagulls, and sticky gel for smaller birds are all examples of commercial deterrents you can try. Netting is helpful if you have birds landing over a large area like a rooftop.
Deterrents are installed or applied where your problem birds tend to hang out such as ledges and the tops of fences. Some deterrents are particular to bird species– woodpeckers don’t appreciate flashy strips of mylar, whereas sparrows are terrified of string rigged up like tripwires. Learning a little about the birds breed bothering you is useful for picking the best deterrent.
There are pros and cons to every bird deterrent. Some professionals claim stainless steel coiling works better than spikes because it takes up more of the birds’ perching space when properly installed. Electric shock strips take time to install, are pricier than other options, and need to be constantly charged or plugged in to work. Bird Busters, a commercial bird control company, features a long list of deterrents you can peruse.
There are a lot of bird repellent formulas on the market, though manufacturers tend to be vague about what they contain. Many are designed specifically to keep geese away, while others are for birds like starlings that try to nest around your home. These chemical products are labeled “non-toxic” but at the same time all equipment use with them must be washed immediately. They cannot be used on building surfaces, only on the ground, and come with very careful application instructions.
Passive measures for birds
One of the first defenses against any pest is cutting off sources of food and shelter as much as you can. In the case of birds, stop all intentional efforts to feed them. Even a small feeder for one type of bird can encourage half the bird neighborhood to come by for a look and then decide to move in. Any unintended food sources, like animal feed, should be properly sealed and contained. Fruits and vegetables in the garden that attracts birds may be covered with netting.
Blocking birds from potential nesting sites is a bit trickier. You can start by sealing off any open spaces in your roof eaves and soffits where birds tend to nest. Remember to do this in the off-season when birds are gone; trapping baby or adult birds, or disturbing the nests of protected species, is illegal in most places. This Old House recommends hardware cloth for blocking vents and pipes where sparrows and starlings like to roost.
When birds make it into your home– living in your attic, walls, garage, etc.– it is usually time for an exclusion. This pest control term refers to the process of removing the animals from your home or waiting for them to leave and then sealing up their exits and entrances. For some bird breeds, trapping is necessary; this is not, however, safe or legal in all situations, so consult animal control or a pest control expert before setting traps for birds in your house. Most of the time you can simply wait for when birds leave seasonally and safely remove any traces of their nests before sealing up the area in question.
If you have birds living in your vents, chimney, or other space that must remain open, netting or wire mesh is needed. When securely installed, a screen of some kind should be sufficient for keeping out birds while allowing air or smoke to pass through freely. Again, just be sure any birds who were living there are gone before sealing up a space with mesh or netting.
Integrated pest management (IPM) for birds
If you want to know how to keep birds away for good, you should look into IPM practices. This method uses a variety of the techniques mentioned above to create a comprehensive bird control plan. An IPM expert will consider all environmental factors, from what the bird is eating to what time of year they are on your property, to determine what can be done to make your area less appealing to birds.
You can create and implement your own IPM plan by researching the birds you are trying to keep away and pairing up appropriate strategies for their removal. The integrated management philosophy is also helpful for ensuring the bird population you expel does not return.
Researching how to keep birds away can feel daunting, but you should be hopeful that with so many options to choose from you can find the right bird control solution for your situation. Just think, the sooner you find the right deterrent, repellent, or exclusion method, the sooner you can go back to thinking of birds as those nice little creatures who fill the air with songs rather than the nightmare that is wreaking havoc on your property.