by Terra Anders

Hirundo rustica!  It sounds like a battle cry of a foreign militia group. Actually, it is the scientific name for the common barn swallow.  Recognized by its long forked tail, glistening blue top feathers and soft pink breast color, the swallow can be seen flitting about almost endlessly throughout North America. One of the swallow’s most popular spots is California in the spring and summer.

Although these birds are pleasant to watch, they can create a nuisance in homes, structures, barns or stables.  Anywhere there are birds there is bird droppings.  In the case of swallows, their unique nesting habits add the additional title of pest bird.  Of the seven species of swallows that breed in California, the cliff and barn swallows build mud nests on the sides of homes, barns, garden gazebos, or stables.  These annoying mud nests often have landowners wondering how to keep these pest birds off their property.

Swallows look for structures that satisfy their four basic needs: an open area for seeking food, clean water for drinking and bathing, a vertical surface sheltered by an overhang for protection and attaching their nest, and, of course, enough good quality mud with which to build their mud nest. Once the birds find this perfect spot, they will come back year after year. 

The mud nests, just like the bird droppings can become infested with bugs or disease that can affect human health.  It is important to find humane ways to eliminate the nests and prevent the pest birds from returning the next year. During September and through January the swallows are still vacationing in South America, so now is the best time to install bird deterrents. Simply removing the abandoned nest will not deter these pest birds from returning.  In fact, removing nests during their “official” nesting season (mid-February to September 1) is not permitted in California without a special permit.

To keep pest birds away from a previously occupied nesting area, bird exclusion methods are required. Once the nest is removed and the area clean from debris, feathers and mud, use the methods suggested below to create a space that is uncomfortable and uninviting.  Bird Slopes under overhangs prevent the birds from getting a foothold on the vertical surfaces.  The UV protected slopes are a slippery, steeply slanted physical bird deterrent that blocks the overhang of the building.  These are ideal for ledges /overhangs that are about six inches wide. They are set in position and held in place with exterior polyurethane adhesive.

Hanging No Nasty Nest strips under eaves or overhangs are another effective way to keep birds away from the underside of overhangs or ledges. These are 3” x 11” strips of plastic that have a cluster of clear nylon strings dangling down.  Applying these irritating ticklers where the old nests used to be (or where new nests might be built) will coax pest birds to look elsewhere.

These simple bird control methods are aesthetically appealing and can be easily installed by the homeowner using adhesive, glue or nails. 


by Alex A. Kecskes

While most birds are loved by man, pest birds represent a significant and ongoing problem. According to the FAA, bird strikes cost civil aviation almost $500 million a year. Keep in mind that just one bird can destroy an expensive jet engine in just seconds. The fact is, bird strikes on military airfields endanger our troops, can jeopardize the mission and ruin equipment. It's easy to see why many people look for ways to scare birds away.

Growers don't much care for pest birds either. Native and non-native bird species have been known to cause crop losses in vineyards--typically 30 percent to as much as 100 percent. Pest birds can quickly devour seeds and ripening fruit. Many growers pull out all the stops to scare birds away.

In the cities and urban areas, pest birds can wreak havoc with building facades, statues, schools, public playgrounds and parks. Bird droppings can destroy the paint on cars and buildings. They leave an unsightly mess and can carry a number of communicable diseases. Diseases transmitted by birds include aspergillosis, salmonellosis, thrush, avian tuberculosis, coccidiosis, cryptococcoses, encephalitis, histoplasmosis, Newcastle disease, toxoplasmosis and West Nile virus. No wonder so many municipalities have spent considerable sums of money to scare birds away.

The feral pigeon is by far the most prolific urban pest bird in the world. Originally descended from the domesticated rock dove, they are now wild and live in close proximity to man. Feral pigeons are scavengers, scrounging for food in cities and town centers, where they are often eagerly fed by the general public. Feral pigeon populations are on the rise due to a lack of natural predators, the constant supply of food and their ability to breed year around.

Other pest birds include the house sparrow, the starling and the gull. Gulls are scavengers and feed from scraps of food in town centers as well as sewerage outlets and domestic garbage dumps. Starlings often gather in huge flocks where their droppings ruin structures and monuments. Small but still a nuisance are sparrows, which often clog rain gutters and downspouts, and frequently cause electrical equipment shorts and fires.

To scare birds away without harming them can prove to be quite a challenge. Fortunately, there are a number of pest bird deterrents that are available to humanely discourage birds from landing, roosting and nesting.

For pigeons and large birds, consider the use of the highly effective Bird Spike strip. Harmless to birds, the intimidating spikes simply discourage birds from landing. Some bird spikes are made of stainless steel, others use rigid unbreakable polycarbonate spikes (the poly spikes are less expensive).

For flat even areas, the Bird Spider has proven its worth as an effective pest bird deterrent. The spindly spider arms whip around in the wind to scare birds away. Spiders come in several diameters to deter various bird sizes. Harmless to birds, spiders are easy to maintain and easy to install. Similar to the spider, the motorized whirly-gig utilizes rotating arms to scare birds away. Ideal for parapet walls, roofs, signs, and billboards, some of these products are powered by batteries and others are even powered by solar energy.

Next up are the growing number of balloons and banners of iridescent reflective foil and shiny tape, which create an “Optical Distraction Zone.” Some of these bird scare products feature lifelike reflective predator eyes. Others have "day-glow" backsides to scare birds away at night. One of the many things that make these bird scare products so appealing is their low cost and easy installation. They're ideal for use on boat docks, pool areas, overhangs, gazebos, and other troublesome areas.

We know people get irritated whey they walk across a carpet, reach for a doorknob and get shocked. It's the same with birds. Electric Shock Bird Repellers have been used for years to scare birds away. Ideal for pigeons, seagulls and larger birds, these electrified tracks mildly zap birds that try to land. Easily mounted on ledges, signs, rooftops, and flat or curved surfaces, many electric tracks have a low profile tracks, so they can't be seen from below.

While screaming at birds or blasting loud horns can scare birds away, there are bird deterrents that use ultrasonic sounds that annoy birds--annoy them enough to discourage them from landing. These audio deterrents imitate distress calls and predator calls. They're ideal for enclosed areas like parking garages, overhangs and sheds, where  pigeons, sparrows, starlings or seagulls sometimes gather in flocks.

Farmers and growers have long used this next category of bird deterrents to scare birds away. Known as Foggers or Misters, these disperse a food-grade, non-lethal aerosol of methyl anthranilate. The chemical has been approved by the EPA and won't harm birds. It simply irritates birds that fly through it, convincing them to avoid the area. Some misting systems feature multiple remote spray nozzles to allow specific areas to be treated and pinpointed.


by Alex A. Kecskes

You take great pride in the appearance of your home. You paint it, replace or repair the siding, and maintain the shutters. After all that work and expense, you don’t need woodpeckers defacing your home with holes and unsightly marks. But it can happen--if you don’t implement effective woodpecker deterrents.

As many homeowners have painfully learned, woodpeckers can drill holes into wood siding, window frames, eaves, trim and fascia boards. They often hammer cedar and redwood siding until it looks like the surface of the moon. If you have a façade or decorative fir, pine or cypress, they’ll attack that too. Regrettably, woodpeckers prefer new construction and rustic, channeled plywood with cedar or redwood veneers. Many a homeowner has been saddened to discover the tell-tale narrow horizontal line of holes on the side of their home as woodpeckers forage for insects. These birds will even go after the plastic parts in your rooftop solar panels. Without effective woodpecker controls, your home is at the mercy of these pests.

As if damage to your home wasn’t enough, woodpeckers can drive you crazy with their incessant drumming--especially in the springtime. They seem to love to bang away at the hollow areas where their drumming makes the most noise. That includes your metal rain gutters, downspouts, chimney caps, TV dish antennas, rooftop plumbing vents, and metal roof valleys. Ask any homeowner with a woodpecker problem: these birds will drum all day long, week after maddening week.

It’s enough to make you want to whip out the BB gun or even bird poisons. Unfortunately for you and fortunately for them, woodpeckers are migratory, non-game birds that are fully protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In fact, the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) and the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) are both listed as Endangered Species and cannot be touched without incurring the penalty of law.

Fortunately for you, there are a number of effective and humane woodpecker control measures you can use to solve most woodpecker problems.

One widely used woodpecker deterrent is lightweight plastic bird netting. This method works because you’re physically excluding pest birds from specific areas.  Birds simply can’t get at your property. Plastic bird netting typically comes in several mesh sizes to block out various size birds. For most woodpeckers, you’ll need a 3/4-inch mesh size. If you’re concerned about the appearance of bird netting, high quality netting is now available in various colors to match your home's exterior.

When installing the netting, be sure to leave a 3-inch space between the netting and the area to be protected. You don’t want the birds to drum their beaks through the mesh. You can also install bird netting to the overhanging eaves, then swing back to your exposed siding. For best results, secure the netting tightly to prevent birds from getting behind it.

To streamline the installation of bird netting, one manufacturer offers a bird netting kit. These kits include bird net hardware to help match any job. Things like perimeter cable, which can be set up around the area to be netted off to ensure that there are no gaps for birds to enter, and that the netting stays taut. The kits may also include netting hardware--items like cable crimps, turnbuckles, intermediate attachments, hog rings, and accessories and tools to ensure a correct and lasting installation.

It’s sometimes best to add additional deterrents to your home (in addition to netting). Combined, two woodpecker control approaches create an effective solution to the woodpecker problem. For example, consider installing some visual deterrents like banners that crinkle in the breeze and reflect sunlight. Or balloons emblazoned with large predator eyes to intimidate pest birds. For best effect, visual woodpecker deterrents should be moved around often so birds don't get used to them.

Above all, it’s important to be proactive and install these woodpecker controls and deterrents before the birds arrive.  Once these birds have “set up shop,” it’s pretty hard to get rid of them.