Pigeons resting on a ledge

Don’t wing it: What you need to know about birds on multifamily properties

Kim Lewis

Many multifamily properties can encounter issues with birds – specifically pigeons, geese, sparrows, starlings, and even seagulls. Where are these birds likely to create problems? And what can you do to solve them?  In this article, Rentokil bird expert Kim Lewis provides information and advice to help properties deter birds. 

Why retaining a bird management expert is so important

It may be tempting to try to resolve problems on your own, but there are good reasons why you shouldn’t “wing it” alone.

  • Protected status. Many bird species are protected under federal and state laws; that should be recognized prior to attempting any type of bird control. To undertake bird management actions, it is always necessary to follow regulatory controls which may require licenses and permits. 
  • Public perception. People view birds as “feathered friends,” and therefore, efforts to control them can be concerning to the general public. That can create public relations issues.
  • Safety. Birds, their droppings, and feathers can carry harmful pathogens. It is critical that any cleanup or control measures be conducted safely to protect people in the area and those doing the cleanup. Special OSHA protocol for equipment and cleanup must be followed.

To resolve bird issues, start with a simple question

Rentokil’s Division Manager of Bird Management Services, Kim Lewis, has been solving bird issues for businesses for more than 30 years. He says the number one question that should be asked before any work begins is, “Why are the birds here and what is the problem are they creating?”

pigeons on ledge

What birds can be a problem? And where do you find them?

There are a number of bird species that can create issues on multifamily properties. Here are the five key groups that make up the majority of issues, according to Kim. 

Pigeons

Pigeons are the most ubiquitous bird problem for businesses of all types. These birds will nest in protected areas and loaf on windowsills, ledges, rooftops, or other places that give them a high-up viewpoint to watch areas below.

At multifamily facilities, some of the common places you’ll find pigeons nesting and loafing are balconies, dormer returns, downspout elbows, HVAC units, windowsills, cornice returns, and rooftops. Ornate or modern architecture designs that create sheltered spaces and “pockets” may also be a target for pigeons.

Pigeons are also driven by the search for food, so you will find them in outdoor dining areas, near trash receptacles and dumpsters, and anywhere people are feeding them. Nature-loving residents may unwittingly create issues by putting bird feeders on their balconies or porches.   

Sparrows and Starlings

These two species are grouped together because they are considered “small birds” and often behave in the same ways. These small birds can nest in very small, protected spaces, such as balconies, unscreened/covered dryer vents, behind decorative shutters, near lighting and electrical units, under awnings, and more. This can prevent residents from enjoying their balconies and pose fire hazards. 

Like pigeons, small birds will spend time in areas where food is readily available, such as near dining areas, trash receptacles, or in areas where there are bird feeders.

Canada geese

Geese become problematic in two specific ways. First, they defecate in copious amounts, leaving an unattractive mess behind. Second, they can become aggressive, especially when protecting their nests, and have been known to chase people who get to close.  

Multifamily properties are often beautifully landscaped and have peaceful water features. Unfortunately, the very things that make a property beautiful to humans can also make it attractive to geese. Geese look specifically for bodies of water and open grassy areas. Geese actually eat grass and prefer a diet of freshly mowed, well-maintained grass. Shrubbery can also be attractive to geese, as it can provide a protected area for them to nest and lay eggs. 

Seagulls

While less likely to be an issue than many other birds, seagulls can pose problems for properties that are near a body of water or shoreline. 

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.

Bird damage and other hazards

What’s the big deal about a few birds? The truth is, as much as birds are our feathered friends, they can also create public health and safety issues, leave behind a mess, be an annoyance, and even cause costly property damage, says Kim. 

  • Public health concerns – Most people don’t realize it, but birds, their droppings, and feathers can carry as many as 60 different pathogens that cause human disease. Among them are E. coli, Salmonellosis, histoplasmosis, Cryptococcosis, and Candidiasis. Some of these diseases can lead to severe illness, even lifelong respiratory problems. These can transfer to humans in a number of ways.
  • Safety hazards – When droppings fall onto walkways, they can create slip and fall hazards. Nests in the wrong areas can create fire hazards — dryer vents, near lighting, or around other electrical equipment, for example. 
  • Droppings – In addition to the health concerns they create, bird droppings create an unattractive mess that can soil rooftops, streak building facades, damage cars, and spoil landscaping. Bird fecal matter is corrosive, which can create other problems, as well. It is important to have any large-scale dropping messes cleaned up by a professional. 
  • HVAC system concerns – One of the biggest expenses many multifamily properties incur on a regular basis is HVAC upkeep and maintenance. Pigeons and seagulls can wreak havoc on HVAC systems, particularly on flat rooftops. They find these big, warm machines the perfect place for nesting and hanging out. Droppings and feathers can clog air intakes; even worse, intake systems can pull these pathogen-laden items in and circulate them through the air, causing air quality concerns.
  • Tenant and neighbor issues – Bird noise and dropping messes can result in unhappy tenants and neighbors, impacting occupancy rates and creating unpleasant interactions for your staff. 

Be on the lookout for these signs of bird problems. If you spot them, it may be time to take action. 

pigeons eating bread on the sidewalk

7 simple steps to keep birds at bay

Solving bird issues doesn’t have to be costly. Kim says that these 7 simple action points can deter a significant amount of bird activity from a property. 

  • Place signs on the property “Don’t Feed the Birds!” and prohibit use of bird feeders on balconies.
  • Exclude areas where birds may find protection to nest or roost overnight. This may include screening, netting, or other measures to keep them out.
  • Close trash cans and dumpsters. Clean up any food scraps left behind. 
  • Keep trees and shrubbery pruned and manicured to prevent birds from nesting.
  • Make sure gutters are clean of debris and that there is no standing water in gutters or on rooftops.
  • Constantly observe and be aware of new bird activity that may appear. Birds may be nesting in dryer vents or tops of light fixtures.
  • Be proactive. Be aware of bird droppings and debris on sidewalks and traffic areas below. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Okay…your property still has bird problems. Now what? 

If you’ve implemented these simple steps and are still having bird problems, it’s time to call in a bird management professional to evaluate the situation on your property. There are many eco-friendly, humane bird management measures that can be put into place to deter bird activity, from grid systems installed over water and rooftops to perch modification to turf and shrubbery applications, to name a few. 

Not sure if you have a bird problem? Download our checklist to get a sense of the extent of bird issues on your property. 

Rentokil has a team of bird management professionals with decades of experience in implementing bird management solutions for businesses of all types. For help with a bird problem on your multifamily property, give us a call at 800.488.9495. We’ll be happy to send someone to your property for a free consultation.

Kim Lewis
Kim Lewis

Kim Lewis is Rentokil Steritech’s Division Manager of Bird Management Services. Kim has spent more than 30 years working with high-profile companies to implement safe, humane, and discreet bird management solutions. In addition to managing a staff that works across North America, Kim also has had the opportunity throughout his career to work with bird control product manufacturers to help perform product efficacy testing. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Kutztown University. In his spare time, when not looking for birds, Kim enjoys the outdoors, hunting, fishing, boating, and spending time with his six granddaughters.

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