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.
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