Boost your bird business with expert advice for commercial and residential jobs.
Pest management professionals (PMPs) looking for a way to make 2018 a year of record profits in their bird businesses should look no further than the following hints for commercial and residential jobs.
- Know your birds. Most birds are protected from being harmed in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Three notable exceptions are pigeons (Columba livia domestica), European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Federal law does not protect them because they are not native to the United States. However, some communities have added protections for these birds. Familiarize yourself with regulations in dealing with all pest bird species before performing any control. (Editor’s Note: For an interesting take on dealing with a bird species that is protected by the Act, see below.)
- Ask the right questions. Starting with the initial phone call, assess the caller’s situation and evaluate whether the client is prepared for what it may take to effectively solve the problem. Use Google Earth to help you view the site while the client is on the phone.
- Don’t skimp on your site evaluation. This is especially critical when servicing a large commercial property. Perform a thorough on-site analysis by surveying the entire property, areas of concern, and where the birds may move if control attempts are implemented. Visit during different times of the day to ensure you have a full grasp of the problem.
- Identify the problem birds. How long has this problem existed? Determine the birds’ activities, such as flight times, loafing periods, flight paths, and nesting and feeding areas.
- Determine the pressure. How attached are the birds to the location? Few clients ever call when the problem is new. Recognize that most problems will require control methods suitable for medium- and high-pressure situations.
- Create detailed reports. Include in your report findings solutions and recommendations using photos, videos and diagrams. On the other hand, don’t be so detailed that the client can simply take your assessment and hire someone else. Don’t overwhelm your client with lots of options, either. Focus the client on no more than three options. Certain methods will fit into varying price points for some clients, and will allow them to choose what works with their needs.
- Protect everyone’s health. Clean from all areas bird nests, debris and droppings prior to installing any bird deterrents. Be sure your workers know how to protect themselves and your clients from diseases spread by bird droppings.
- Keep informed about the latest bird control tools and methods. Develop a relationship with your bird control suppliers. New products are regularly being created to turn a construction problem into a very easy way to eliminate birds.
- Know when to ask for help. Take advantage of technology — cell phones, emails, photos and video — as you reach out for help. A large bird job can be overwhelming. But there are professionals willing to provide technical assistance on bird control jobs when needed. Seek out the advice of vendors, colleagues, co-workers and other bird control experts.
- Don’t ignore residential bird jobs. While large commercial bird jobs are always desirable, the logistics of such jobs, coupled with extreme competition to secure these somewhat limited accounts, can create issues. “Base hits” that easily add to your bottom line can be a better decision than a time- and budget-busting job that involves waiting months for payment.
- Take advantage of easy money. Controlling European starlings and house sparrows is relatively simple. Both species are cavity nesters and will readily invade vents, louvers and other structural gaps. Nests associated with starlings can become so large that home inspectors might mistakenly think they were created by squirrels, owls or even raccoons.
- Install prefabricated screens. After removing the nesting material and treating for ectoparasites, install vent screens to prevent birds from reoccupying vents. Passive and bathroom exhaust vents are easily secured with screens ranging in quality from plastic to stainless steel. Most can be installed in a just a few minutes, making them a superb add-on repair service.
- Take special care around dryer vents. Building codes in your area may prohibit any tampering with the dryer vent. Nevertheless, improper treatment of dryer vents can increase the likelihood of a fire. One product with a good reputation is a metal dryer wall vent that uses micro magnets to close. They not only are aesthetically appealing, but also do not trap lint as a screen-style cover could.
- Mind the gaps. For any gaps behind the gutter, use a drip edge or gutter apron (sheet metal or aluminum flashing with a 90° or 105° angle that is installed under shingles). Secure other bird entry points using vent covers and similar products, easily installed with common tools. Custom screening of louvered or gable vents requires some skill to make aesthetically pleasing, but with a little practice and effort, it should become part of a bird control professional’s repertoire.
- Continue your training. With bird management methods and products always improving, get involved in the National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA) Certified Bird Barrier Training Course to stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in bird control and exclusion. This course will be offered at the 2019 Wildlife Expo in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
What about woodpeckers and chimney swifts?
Woodpeckers (Picidae) are a particularly thorny problem, as they are a protected species. Lethal control can only be performed with a permit after proving that non-lethal control efforts have failed. Woodpecker behavior falls into three types:
- Drumming occurs when the pecking is used to advertise for a mate or territory. Typically, this occurs in the spring.
- Sometimes, pecking is done to excavate a nest. The nest may be temporary or may be a first step to raising young.
- Lastly, pecking is done in search of food (insects). Feeding behavior is typically horizontal hole-making into the surface of structures. In some areas, carpenter bee larvae are a favored food source. Addressing the source of insects, if present, should be your priority.
The best chance for woodpecker control is to haze the bird quickly with shiny/flasher products, coupled with rapid repairs of damage. Always remind your client, though, that hazing techniques do not work in every situation.
Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica) are another protected species, but are easy to control, at least in northern areas, provided the client is patient. All that is needed is to wait until late August or so for the birds to migrate south again. Once the birds and their young have left, simply secure the chimney with a professionally manufactured chimney screen.
Ryan Hall; Charles Holt, CWCP; and Stephen Vantassel, CWCP, are board members of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association. Learn more at NWCOA.com.