by Alex A. Kecskes

Let’s say you own or manage an open-air produce market, the kind that’s becoming increasingly popular as today’s quality conscious consumers shy away from big chain supermarkets.

You pride yourself on the fresh, clean appearance of your store, something that draws a discriminating clientele to shop there, week after week. What you don’t want to draw are pest birds. They not only bother your customers, but they can ruin the image of your store with their smelly nests and droppings. Droppings that can contaminate your produce, deface your signage and awnings/umbrellas, and create filthy walkways your customers will sidestep to avoid. Worse yet, bird droppings on open-air produce can bring a citation or two from health inspectors who can easily shut you down.

So how do you get rid of pest birds? BB guns, poisons, noisemakers--they’re just too dangerous or intrusive to be practical. The only viable solution is modern effective bird control. These devices and systems have been specifically designed to deter pest birds from commercial premises like yours. Here are a few of the more popular pest bird deterrents:

Bird Spike. Pest birds love to loiter on roofs, parapet walls, signage, awnings and other lofty areas. From there, they can “dive bomb” onto open food carts and displays, pick food off tables and chairs, and scavenge for scraps on the ground. Bird spikes deny them these loft perches, making it impossible for birds to land on or near them. Ideal for pigeons, crows and other large birds, bird spikes come in strong, rigid unbreakable polycarbonate or flexible stainless steel. The best spikes are made of marine-grade stainless steel and feature a U.V.-protected polycarbonate base. You can also get bird spikes with a crush proof, non-reflective metal finish. If you opt for less expensive plastic bird spikes, you can choose from a variety of colors--like white, tan, gray, black, brown, brick red and crystal clear. To keep birds like crows and pigeons out of your rain gutters, you’ll need the Gutter Spike, which has an adjustable clamp at the base for easy attachment to the lip of a gutter.

Bird Spider. To protect specific areas of your market from pest birds, Bird Spiders can be quite effective. These portable devices can be easily moved onto most lofty areas birds like to frequent. They include a glue-on base, which allows them to be permanently affixed to flat most surfaces. Place one or two on a roof or fixed awning and birds will definitely avoid the area. How do they work? Simple. Bird spiders use long spindly spider-like arms that whip about in the breeze, making pest birds too nervous to land near them. If your market has outdoor seating areas, you can temporarily place a spider on an outdoor table or two before opening hours to keep pest birds from landing on them. Spiders come in several diameters (arm lengths) to discourage many types of pest birds--typically, 2-, 4- and 8-foot arms to cover increasingly larger areas. Ideal for use against pigeons, seagulls and larger birds, spiders have no moving parts to wear out, so they’re basically maintenance free. Look for bird spiders that have a U.V.-protected polycarbonate base.

Bird Sonics. Certain sounds can be perfectly innocuous to humans while at the same time striking fear in the hearts of pest birds. Bird sonic systems have been scientifically designed by ornithologists to do just that. These systems and their portable speakers are easily mounted on storefronts, patio covers, and under eaves and awnings. They can keep pest birds away from outdoor areas by emitting predator and distress calls most birds find alarming and disturbing. Once installed, they’re designed to ward off all manner of birds--including pigeons, crows, starlings, swallows, gulls, woodpeckers, sparrows, grackles, cormorants and many others. One super-flexible sonic system emits distress and predator calls for 22 types of birds. Something to keep in mind if you’re being invaded by several bird species.