It's important to remember that when wildlife are being a nuisance, that they aren't being malicious. They have "conveniently" found an element on your property that they need for survival (food, water, shelter, space, nesting location, etc). By identifying what is drawing the bird to the property or contributing to the nuisance behavior, it is easier to draw up a plan to address the problem using non-lethal methods.
For the more common situations, we've provided some background information and suggestions as well as links to products that may help address the issue. We've linked to products that have good reviews. And thanks to technology innovations, there are many options that are automated, don't require electricity, and don't require you to constantly be on guard.
If you approach this process knowing that you may need to try several options concurrently, or rotate different methods as needed, you'll have a greater chance of being successful. Simply placing something outside and expecting it to be effective forever will quickly leave you disappointed.
Bird Exclusion, Harrassment and Scare Products For The Home Garden
Naturally, birds believe the plants and food in your garden is being grown for them to enjoy. They don't know that it wasn't meant to be shared. Your options are to scare the birds away or to exclude them. If you're trying to protect a small area, it might be easier to exclude them using netting. But if you're trying to protect a larger area, or you have commercial crops, your best approach would be to discourage their return using harrassment or scare tactics.
Exclusion is the only fool-proof method of protecting plants and crops; but it also only practical in smaller situations. It is practical and economical to cover a small strawberry patch or berry bushes with netting. But it may not be practical to net large fruit trees. A flying hawk decoy that hangs from branches, along with scare tape, would be a more effective way of discouraging birds from fruit trees.
Predator decoys are a sure way to scare birds. However, real predators move around when they are looking for prey. Real predators also don't necessarily stay in the same location or area when they are hunting. So birds might be discouraged for a while when using a predator decoy, but they'll return to see if things are safe. If the fake predator is still in the same spot each time the birds check in, and the predator never moves, the birds may eventually decide it's safe. We've actually seen pigeons sitting on top of an owl decoy. To increase the efficiency of a fake predator decoy, move it to a new location every few days so that it's not in the same place when birds check by. Even better, use a predator decoy that is motion activated or set on a timer to move (rotate its head) and releases a predator call. It's also important to chose a predator based on the birds you are trying to scare away. Larger hawks, owls, and peregrine falcons are better for bigger birds such as pigeons. Smaller hawks that resemble sharp shinned hawks or owl models are better for scaring smaller birds.
Scare tactics are meant to scare away birds upon arrival. These can be visual items such as predator decoys, motion activated decoys that emit loud predator sounds, and motion activated water sprinklers.
These are tactics that require you to take action when you need to discourage birds from an area. Because these require you to be on continual watch, these tactics are best used occasionally in addition to the products listed above. The downside to some of these methods (not including the drone) is that birds may start to recognize when you approach, and then simply wait until you leave. Walking your dog, clapping loudly, spraying water near (not at) the birds, download predator calls to your phone and play the calls using a waterproof wireless speaker, and harrassing the birds with a drone are ways you can directly discourage them. If you decide to harrass birds with a drone, keep in mind that you should never fly the drone closer that 10 feet near a bird and that you should completely avoid going near any bird nests.
Visual deterrents are items that discourage birds from an area because they way they reflect light or move with wind are unfamiliar, making birds either hesitant to be near then, or annoyed/uncomfortable by their prescence. They don't necessarily harrass or scare the birds; they make the area less inviting. Deterents can be as simple as mylar scare tape, inflated mylar helium balloons, and wind spinners.
Sound deterrents are items meant to scare birds from an area. They can be sudden and loud booms, or imitate the calls of bird predators. These types of products have very specific placement requirements and varying degrees of effectiveness depending on your situation. Refer to the manufacturer's recommendations as well as reviews left by others to determine the most effective positioning. Predator Calls are also an effective way to scare birds. The sound of a nearby predator will make birds very uncomfortable. Again, you'll want to choose a predator call based on the types of birds you are attempting to discourage.
Bird Harrassment and Scare Products For Commercial Crops
Any of the techniques used in home applications to address nuisance birds can also be used in smaller industrial or commerical settings. Visit our Nuisance Wildlife Solutions For Businesses page for product reviews and suggestions.
Birds Nesting In The Chimney
Chimney Swifts are primarily the birds in question (June through August) if birds are nesting in your chimney. They build their nests near the top of the chimney, so if you hear birds further down, closer to the flue, there's a good chance it's a bird that has become trapped inside and needs rescue. Loss of habitat has brought about the Chimney Swift's adaptation to man-made structures. Fortunately, we do not use the chimney during the Chimney Swift breeding season. The birds eat mosquitoes, so having them on your property means you might also have fewer mosquitoes. Their noisy chatter happens when the parents come to feed their young. You can reduce the noise you hear inside the house by placing insulation over the damper inside your fireplace. Fortunately, the birds are usually quiet at night. Chimney Swifts are federally protected and can not be removed, nor would you want to remove them since they eat the mosquitoes on your property. Schedule chimney sweeps or other maintenance in late September after the chimeny swifts have left. If you'd prefer they not nest in your chimney, install a chimney cap after they leave.
Birds Getting Trapped Inside Chimney (above the flue damper)
The resolution for helping birds trapped in your chimney is similar to the technique used for trapped squirrels; the solution may be as easy as closing all interior doors and curtains, but leaving one window or door open as an exit. Then carefully opening the damper and stepping back to observe from a distance. Once the bird sees the light coming inside the chimney from the opened damper, the bird will eventually be drawn out. It will take a little bit of time for the bird to orient itself, but it should head towards the opened door or window looking for an exit. Birds trapped for over 24 hours may be dehydrated and require treatment by a wildlife rehabilitator, especially if they appear weak or disoriented after coming out of the chimney. Prevent this from happening again by installing a chimney cap.
Birds Roosting On Ledges
Pigeons are roosting birds. You can discourage their roosting by installing bird spikes, hanging irridescent strips of mylar, tying helium balloons to patio railings, spraying water from the garden hose near (not at) them, or setting up replica predators. For warehouses, use bird spikes, netting for exclusion, or acoustic devices. Please do not use paste or caulk bird deterrents; they cause feather damage, impede flight/thermoregulation and possibly death.
Click here to view the full listing of bird spike options
More information related to bird spikes can be found here
Damaging Home Exterior
Woodpeckers will peck on your home's exterior to either search for food or create enough noise to announce to other woodpeckers to keep out of its territory. When they're trying to establish their territory, they'll use things like flashing which amplifies the sound. If you can reach the flashing, you can try hanging reflective scare tape on or near the area. If the flashing it higher up or out of reach, you might try tying some inflated mylar helium balloons so that they are floating right next to or in front of the area that is attracting the woodpecker. A day or two of floating balloons should be enough to discourage the bird.
If they are pecking at your home's trim or siding, you may have a bigger problem. Woodpeckers explore wood for insects by pecking. If they are pecking on your home's exterior on a regular basis, there's a good chance that you have insect damage due to termites or ants. If the exterior was showing signs of deterioration, rotting or other damage, it may be time to correct the cause and replace the damaged areas before it extends to other areas of your home. Once damaged wood is repaired, that should also stop the woodpeckers from returning.
Birds Attacking People
Geese, Mockingbirds and Bluejays have earned reputations for this behavior. They have intense parental instincts and readily defend their young from all threats. It begins in Spring as nesting sites are selected and ceases once the new parents are too busy chasing after their young. If at all possible, a certain amount of patience and avoidance must be employed. Avoid the "protected" area for up to 2 weeks. Usually, birds feel the need to protect an area (protect it from "predators") that is close to their nesting site or near their young. If avoiding the "protected" area is not possible, use an umbrella to protect against overhead attacks by birds, and a garden house or dog on a leash to scare geese.
For businesses, you can cordon off the perimeter of a nesting site. Perhaps even include some signage. This may help reduce the negative effects to employees or customers.
Birds Attacking Windows Or Mirrors
Many species of birds are extremely territorial and will readily battle with all challengers, including the "challengers" they see in the reflection of your house or car windows. This behavior is easily corrected by hanging strips of irridescent mylar tape on the windows or mirrors. There is also a temporary spray that you apply to your car's window or mirror that blocks the bird's reflection, and is effective for Northern Cardinals, American Robins, California Towhees, and other territorial birds. But you could essentially spray any temporary non-toxic, non-petroleum based substance on the mirror that would obscure the bird's reflection (such as spray on deodorant).
Birds Flying Into Windows
Even if this problem is not related to territorial issues as those listed above, the solutions remains the same. Beautiful picture windows or patio doors appear as openings to birds. When frightened, they quickly head for the nearest escape path. Hanging strips of irridescent mylar tape on the windows or doors will be easily noticed when the birds approach. Decals on windows are also effective.
Starlings Taking Over Purple Martin HousesStarling-resistant Entrance Holes (SREH's) The Purple Martin Conservation Association's guide to modifying purple martin houses.
9(3)trio6 Additional Resources