Birds are our feathered friends. Unfortunately, for multifamily properties, pigeons, seagulls, and Canada geese can be problematic when they take up residence, nest, perch, roost, and loaf on properties. Their feathers and droppings can carry pathogens that are harmful to humans, damage buildings and equipment, and create unsightly messes that require costly cleanup.
There are steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of bird issues; however, managing a bird issue on a property isn't something that should be undertaken lightly.
Why Bird Management is Tricky
Bird management is complicated for a host of reasons. A facility trying to tackle bird management on its own can find itself in hot water in more ways than one.
The first reason that bird management is a complex undertaking is public perception. To most people, birds are friendly. Measures taken to restrict their access or curtail their behavior can be concerning to people, turning bird management into a public relations issue. The wrong actions—and sometimes the right ones—can shine an unwanted spotlight on a brand.
Second, many people do not realize that the majority of bird species are protected under federal or state laws. It is a criminal offense to intentionally interfere with their nesting, kill, injure, or harm them. To undertake bird management activities, it is necessary to have the proper licenses and permits. These can vary based on the species being managed, as well as local ordinances that may be in place and need to be followed.
Before approaching any bird management project, a professional should ask, "Where are the birds and what problem are they creating?"
Different bird species have behaviors and preferences that influence where they are likely to become problematic on a property.
Pigeons: Pigeons find protected areas on properties to nest, such as balconies, dormer returns, downspout elbows, HVAC units, windowsills, cornice returns, rooftops, or any architectural designs that can "shelter" them.
Pigeons loaf on windowsills, ledges, rooftops, or anywhere that offers them a prime viewing spot to survey the area below. They may frequent areas of the property where food is readily available, such as outdoor dining areas, near trash receptacles, or areas where people may be voluntarily feeding them.
Canada geese: Geese are attracted to areas with bodies of water and/or green open grassy spaces. Geese feed on grass, preferably freshly mowed. Because multifamily complexes are often landscaped and well-manicured, lawns or expanses of green space may attract geese. Ponds (manmade or fresh), lakes, or other bodies of water are also likely to attract them. The availability of shrubbery is also a plus, as geese look to nest and lay eggs in these protected areas.
Seagulls: Seagulls are likely to become a problem for properties that are near a shoreline of some type. They can also be found in urban areas where there is an abundance of food. Seagulls will look for flat rooftops to nest on or peaked areas to land and perch, or scout for food. Seagulls will flock around any area where obtaining food is an option, such as dumpsters, outdoor dining areas, poolside, etc.
Costly Damage and Other Problems
The presence of birds on a property can be more than just a nuisance—they can cause damage that can hit the bottom line in a big way. Here are just a few of the ways that birds can tax a property's resources and intrude on residents' lives.
- Safety hazards: Bird activity can create safety concerns. Nesting materials wedged against electrical equipment or lighting can cause fire hazards. Droppings falling onto walkways can create fall hazards. Aggressive geese have been known to chase and bite people that are perceived dangers to their nesting areas.
- Dropping mess and damage: Birds and their droppings can carry as many as 60 different pathogens that cause human disease, such as E. coli, Salmonellosis, histoplasmosis, Cryptococcosis, Candidiasis, and more. Geese leave large, messy droppings behind, spoiling landscaping, while pigeons and seagulls can soil rooftops, building facades, cars, and more. Fecal matter can be corrosive. Dropping cleanup is expensive and must be done regularly to prevent damage.
- HVAC system damage and air quality concerns: Pigeons and seagulls looking for warm, sheltered places to nest can take up residence near HVAC systems, particularly on flat rooftops. Their feathers and droppings can obstruct airflow and clog the system, leading to costly repairs and cleaning. Even worse, intake systems can suck in dropping and feather particles, which get circulated through the air and can potentially make people sick.
- Tenant and neighbor issues: The presence of birds on a property can lead to unhappy tenants, especially if birds and the mess they leave behind are disrupting their lives. Noise, droppings, and other issues that migrate from one property to another can impact relationships with business or residential neighbors.
There are a number of steps that property managers can take right now to discourage birds from their property at little to no cost.
- Post signage; use signs to encourage people not to feed the birds.
- Prohibit the use of bird feeders on balconies.
- Keep dumpster and trash collection areas away from structures. Use dumpsters with lids.
- In green spaces, keep grasses higher.
- Keep shrubbery open and well-maintained and areas under shrubs free of vegetation and debris to eliminate potential geese nesting areas.
- For bodies of water, install a fence, barrier, or perimeter fence. Geese do not like to move through obstacles to access water.
- Use screening to protect HVAC systems and keep birds from nesting near them.
Determining the Best Solution
Working with a professional, there are many options that can be utilized to resolve issues. A property's unique environment may make one solution more optimal than another. Some methods used by professionals include:
- Grid systems that can be installed over water or rooftops to prevent birds from landing or nesting.
- Turf and shrubbery applications can make grass unpalatable and irritating to birds.
- Hazing with a nontoxic product that irritates a nerve in the birds' beak, making an environment inhospitable for them.
- Visual and audio deterrents such as decoys, sounds, mylar reflective tape, effigies, or other tools are often short-term solutions, as birds will become accustomed to them.
- Harassment methods will scare birds away from an area using dogs, fireworks, or other tools. These measures must often be repeated to be effective.
- Perch modifications involve installing spikes, electrical systems, or tactile gels that deter birds from landing.
It's important for properties to hire professionals with experience in resolving bird issues that understand not only federal, state laws, and local legislation and ordinances, but also the proper steps to take to obtain permits needed. Failing to do so could put the property at risk for legal action.
With a little extra effort and the help of a professional, most bird issues can be resolved, leaving residents to enjoy their feathered friends while leaving properties free of problematic bird issues.