From start to finish, few things are more intricate and time-consuming than constructing a building. From conception to the planning stages all the way to the grand opening, it is an awesome responsibility.


Bird deterrents such as nets can be used to seal off structural openings. They can be effective in keeping away pigeons and other birds, as well as some smaller animals. (Photos courtesy of Bird-X.)


From start to finish, few things are more intricate and time-consuming than constructing a building. From conception to the planning stages all the way to the grand opening, it is an awesome responsibility. Having a key role in this process, architects are counted on to design a structure that is visually appealing while also being functional and sound in structure. An inch in one place or a millimeter somewhere else can largely affect the progress and end result. Have you ever wondered, though, how much damage birds can cause?

Birds carry over 60 diseases, a few of which can be lethal. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors working in construction zones are at a high risk of contracting one of these diseases, since these types of environments are very attractive to birds. Mix the fecal matter with pools of water and the disease can become airborne, enter a building through the ventilation system, and be breathed in by employees and patrons.

Diseases are very serious, but there is another problem posed by birds’ fecal matter: germination. Pigeons eat gravel. They defecate on the roof, beams or other roosting spots, and their fecal matter clogs drains. The fecal matter’s high nitrogen content provides an environment for seeds to grow at an accelerated rate in drainage systems. Without sunlight, the plants die and clog the drains.

Once droppings dry, it is a race to get them off the surface to avoid degradation of roofing materials and support structures. Bird droppings on asphalt and pressed wood fiber, often found in roofing materials, can mildew. Droppings are also acidic. They can erode metal, steel, iron, wood and many other materials. Erosion can ruin the aesthetic appeal of a building, and the structural support can be affected as well. Over time, steel, metal and iron beams can go from sturdy to dangerous. For this reason, making sure this problem is prevented during the designing phase is vital. The life expectancy of the roof system and the structure will be shortened considerably if fecal matter is left unattended. That is why correct bird control is so essential.

Liability Concerns

Another big mess? The liability factor. Some species of birds can produce up to 1.5 pounds of fecal matter a day Slip-and-fall incidents are all too common, and unassuming passersby can stir up a stink. The New York Transit Authority was ordered to pay a man millions after he slipped on pigeon droppings on subway stairs. Can your company afford a multi-million-dollar lawsuit? This does not even touch the dangers workers are exposed to.

So, what can you do to make sure your project steers clear of birds? Lethal methods may solve the problem in the short term, but remember that killing birds only eliminates the ones that are presently roosting. Killing them does not take away from the fact that your property is bird-friendly. Making the environment unappealing is the key to getting rid of birds for good. Poison may seem like a good idea, but it is neither humane nor pretty. New York City used Avitrol poisoning to eliminate some of the pigeons. Residents were less than pleased with the repercussions.

“Birds were just falling out of the sky. They would land, lie on the ground, flap and die,” a Staten Island resident told the New York Daily News in December 2007. Phoenix, Arizona officials also employed this same method in cutting down the pigeons. A resident told KPHS News it was “almost like raining dead birds” when doves, sparrows, pigeons and even an endangered Towhee littered her back yard. The following are some non-lethal bird deterrents.

Sound Devices

Sound devices can be used in multiple places including rooftops, loading docks, railroad sidings, underpasses, barns, airfields, open lots, parks, construction zones and landfills. Some devices cover up to six acres. There are two types: sonic and ultrasonic. Good sonic devices are programmable and give off bird distress calls, creating the illusion of a predator being near. Similar to a warning, it urges birds to stay away because there is danger near. Some devices have up to eight recorded distress calls and can be timed to turn on and off at certain times. Calls differ in frequency, duration and intervals. Periods of silence can also be programmed.

Ultrasonic sound devices give off sounds beyond the human threshold of hearing capabilities. The sound is harsh but harmless to birds, annoying birds (along with other pests) to the point that they do not want to be in the area. Adjustable frequencies, warble rate and speaker sequencing will keep the birds guessing so they will not become acclimated to the noise.

Roost Inhibitors

Netting can be used to seal off all structural openings and other havens. It is lightweight and pliable with very little upkeep and it will not deteriorate with age or lose strength when exposed to the elements. It can be used nearly anywhere and is effective in keeping away pigeons, starlings, blackbirds, sparrows, gulls, larger birds and some smaller animals.

Spikes make surfaces uneven so birds cannot set up shop. Birds avoid spikes the way humans avoid walking barefoot on glass or a bed of nails. Though they are not lethal, they are extremely uncomfortable. They work very well on ledges, gutters, pipes, beams, trusses, support structures, and sills. Spikes are available in stainless steel and polycarbonate.

Gels and spikes are quite similar in that they can be used in the same places and have the same effect, only the gel is basically undetectable by humans. It is non-toxic and harmless to metal structures, sealed masonry and ornamental metals. Birds avoid it like humans avoid wet tar.

Visual Scares

Visual scares can run the gamut - from plastic coyotes, owls and alligators to mylar balloons with holographic eyes to strobe lighting. If used correctly, in conjunction with other devices, they are very effective in keeping birds and other pests at bay.

Taste and Smell Aversions:

Chemical repellants can be sprayed on anything that animals like deer, squirrels and other pests like to munch on. They do not like the taste so they will stay away from the area. One chemical in particular is especially unappealing to birds. Methyl Anthranilate is made from a constituent of Concord grapes and has been used for decades by the food and drug industry to flavor candy, gum, sodas and drugs. Birds hate the taste and smell of this substance and will surely stay away from any area with this scent. Most of these chemicals are water resistant and all of them are harmless to the environment and the animals.

From start to finish, getting a structure up and running is a tall task. During the beginning stages, it is imperative that quality bird control be utilized so the structure can have adequate support without the worry of erosion, mildew or ventilation issues. Any of these suggestions will go a long way in keeping birds away. The most effective defense is employing various strategies; targeting multiple senses is the best way to bird-proof your site.