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  • Writer's pictureJohn@LiteHouse

Birds - A Natural Nuisance

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Birds are lovely creatures and essential to our ecosystem, but when they enter people's living and working spaces, they can become pests. In commercial properties, especially, pests cause many problems for building occupants. They are vulnerable to problems associated with pests, their nests and their droppings.

Facts and figures

  • A trained elevator mechanic has won a $2.7 million settlement from a property owner after bird droppings caused him to slip and fall down an elevator shaft.

  • Bird droppings contain uric acid, which at a pH of 3 to 4.5 can eat away at most building materials.

  • Like many other animals, birds are attracted to the smell of their own waste. Thoroughly cleaning and deodorizing surfaces eliminates this odor trail and discourages pests from following the scent back to their old hideouts.

  • Pests cause tens of millions of dollars worth of damage to machinery, automobiles, roofs and ventilation systems each year.

Problems caused by commercial real estate pests

  • noise: Many species of birds produce a continuous and irritating noise when gathered in large numbers. This noise can annoy building occupants and workers and deter customers from returning to the business.

Nests: Nests can damage buildings in the following ways:

  • roof damage: Starlings, pigeons and sparrows often build their nests in rain gutters, downspouts and on the underside of roof corners. Warehouses in particular can suffer major damage, even collapsed roofs, when drainage systems are clogged and standing water has to rise. A collapsed roof that results in death or serious physical injury could put a business out of business.

  • blocked ventilation systems: Bird nests built into chimneys and ventilation systems can not only spread disease through the system, but can actually block the flow of air into the building. People can be killed by carbon monoxide poisoning when bird nests block the exhaust system. Bird nests are highly flammable and can block ventilation systems.

  • fires: Nests are usually flammable due to their construction of twigs, straw and dried dung. Nests built in electrical signs and machinery are a serious fire hazard.

  • Dung: Dung represents some of the most visible and serious problems associated with pests, some of which are listed below:

    • disease: Scientists have discovered more than 60 communicable diseases carried by birds and dangerous parasitic organisms that can be dangerous and even fatal to humans. When disturbed, humans can inhale microorganisms contained in dried bird droppings, leading to lung diseases such as histoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis and fever can develop when people eat food that has come into contact with bird-related bacteria. Birds, their droppings and nesting materials also harbor property-destroying insects and mites that carry disease.

    • Property: Bird droppings can damage almost any building material. Wood, stone, steel and iron can be damaged by bird droppings, which have a pH similar to vinegar. If allowed to accumulate, droppings can clog gutters, discolor paint, corrode I-beams, destroy fabric awnings and short out electrical equipment. The droppings commonly corrode and destroy the wooden, paper and cardboard packaging of products stored outdoors on pallets.

    • Roofs: Bird droppings can eat many substrates, especially tar-based roofing materials. Dung that is allowed to accumulate on roofs will eat away at the material and eventually cause leaks. The life of a warehouse roof can be cut in half by a light but continuous layer of bird droppings.

    • Machinery: Bird droppings can seriously damage air conditioning equipment and industrial machinery. Workers are also at risk whenever they work on or near machinery contaminated with bird droppings.

    • automotive finishes: Most bird droppings fade paintwork by eating into the protective coating and the paint itself. The longer the droppings sit on the paint, the more damage they do. Customers whose cars are defaced with bird droppings are less likely to return to that place of business!

    • live birds: Birds that enter building interiors can wreak havoc in commercial operations. Large, open spaces such as the insides of warehouses, aircraft hangars, shopping malls, factories and convention centers are often home to pests. Bird droppings can destroy plastics when they are pressed, destroy any amount of chemicals and liquids that are manufactured, destroy aircraft coatings, and contaminate food that is manufactured or packaged. Dung also spoils finished products on loading ramps and in warehouses. And of course droppings can rain down on the heads of customers and employees who are in the building. This last problem can be particularly severe at indoor concerts, sporting events and shopping malls.

    • company image: Feces on or around a building communicates to the public that the building is not properly maintained. Potential customers may wonder how clean a restaurant kitchen can be with bird droppings dripping down the side of the building.

    • slips and falls: Bird droppings, which are slippery when fresh, can cause pedestrians, customers and/or employees to slip in places such as building entrances and fire escapes. Commercial property owners who fail to prevent bird infestations can be vulnerable to huge legal liability.

Although LiteHouse Commercial's Standards of Practice for Commercial Property Inspection do not require inspectors to determine the presence of birds, they are still knowledgeable about bird infestations and deterrence. During your next scheduled inspection, consult with an LiteHouse Commercial inspector to determine the extent of the problem and possible corrective actions.

Methods of deterring birds

Unlike homes and boats, commercial buildings can suffer damage from pests on a large scale. The only viable solution is bird protection, which includes preventing birds from accessing nesting and roosting areas of the structure. This can be achieved by using products that make it difficult for birds to nest in a certain area, or products that physically prevent birds from accessing the structure. Commercial property owners who want to be pest free have the following options:

  • "porcupine wire" or "bird spikes": This simple, effective, and inexpensive method of bird control dates back to 1950, when the newly invented Bird spikes were installed on presidential structures to prevent birds from roosting on building strips. Dwight D. Eisenhower's farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They are available in species-specific sizes.

  • pin and wire systems: Birds will not land on these tight strands of wire. This system can be very laborious to install and should only be used to repel large birds. These systems work best when covering very narrow areas such as railings, along balconies and where there is moderate human activity. Some systems can now transmit a low voltage current through the wires to help repel birds.

  • Deterrents: Of the various deterrents available, balloons can be the most effective because they move with the wind. It may be helpful to change the position and color of the balloon frequently to prevent the birds from becoming accustomed to them.

  • sticky pastes and liquid repellants: These types of products are non-drying, non-toxic, sticky substances that are applied to surfaces. The mixture tends to irritate the birds' feet, so they leave the protected area.

  • safe chemical bird repellents: Use safe chemical bird repellents that are regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). When a bird is exposed to a chemical repellent, it temporarily feels pain. The birds do not suffer any permanent damage, but associate the pain stimulus with the location and learn that the area is undesirable.

  • Bird Netting: Netting is a good option for preventing access. If you have an open warehouse, building or overhang where birds get up into the beams and joists, bird netting is an effective and economical choice. The mesh should be strong and light, with 3/4-inch square holes or smaller. Larger openings may not prevent the passage of sparrows and other small birds.

Note: Before purchasing a bird control system, determine the types and number of birds causing the problem. Note the areas where the birds land and where they nest. If birds are not present at the time of the inspection, look for nests and droppings on the building, sidewalks, awnings, and signs. Also look for and remove any nearby water or food sources.

In short, pests can damage property and endanger human health. Commercial property owners in Cincinnati should consult with a LiteHouse Commercial inspector if they suspect they have a pest problem.

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