Bug Xterminator | Nuisance Pests/Feral Birds
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Nuisance Pests/Feral Birds

HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH URBAN PEST BIRDS

Damage Caused by Pest Birds

Pigeon droppings, carcasses and nesting materials are heavy and can clog drains on gas station roofs. This roof could collapse if water does not drain off properly and gathers. Droppings coming off the edge of these roofs and make a mess on the sidewalk below, even hitting customers sometimes.

 

 

Pest birds cause tens of millions of dollars of damage every year to Australian buildings, machinery, automobiles, roofs, ventilation systems and much more. Bird droppings and nesting materials which are allowed to accumulate pose a host of physical problems which can become very serious if they are not corrected immediately.

  • Diseases Associated with Pest Birds

    • Bacterial – Paratyphoid, Vibriosis, Salmonella, Listeriosis, Pasteurellosis
    • Fungal – Histoplasmosis, Candidiasis, Sarcosporidiosis, Blastomycosis
    • Viral – Encephalitis, Meningitis, Newcastle Disease, St. Louis Encephalitis
    • Protozoal – Toxoplasmosis, Trichomoniasis, American Trypanosomiasis,
    • Rickettsial – Rickets

(Does not include diseases spread by parasites which live on pest birds).

Damage to Roofs by Droppings

Bird droppings is very acidic in nature. They actually eat away at many substrates, especially tar-based roofing materials. Droppings which are allowed to accumulate on roofs will eat into the material and eventually cause leaks. The life expectancy of a warehouse roof can be cut in half by just a light, but continuous, application of bird droppings.

Damage to Roofs by Nests

Pigeon, starling and sparrow nests are often built in rain gutters, drains and corners of roofs where drains are located. Several warehouses every year experience great damage, even collapsed roofs, when drainage systems are blocked and standing water is allowed to rise just six inches. A collapsed roof that resulted in death or great physical damage could put a company out of business.

Damage to Machinery

Acidic bird droppings can do great damage to air conditioning equipment, industrial machinery, siding, insulation etc. Not only is the equipment being damaged, but workers are exposed to a dangerous health-risk any time they work on or around the machinery.

Fires Started by Bird Nests

Nesting materials are usually very flammable due to their construction of straw, twigs and dried droppings. When birds build their nests inside electric signs or other machinery there is a great risk of fire. Electric sign companies blame bird nests for most of their sign fires.

Ventilation Systems Blocked by Bird Nests

Bird nests built in chimneys and ventilation systems can not only spread diseases through the system, but can actually block air-flow which can have horrible consequences. A family of five in Cleveland was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning just before Christmas 1995 because the exhaust system of their fireplace was blocked by bird nests.

Automobile Finishes Damaged by Bird Droppings

Most bird droppings, but especially pigeon and gull, will fade paint finishes by actually eating into the protective coating and the paint itself. The longer the droppings are allowed to sit on the paint, the more damage it will do.

Damage to Food and Other Products by Bird Droppings

Birds flying around the insides of warehouses, airplane hangars, factories and convention centres can wreak havoc. Bird droppings can ruin plastics when they are being moulded, they can destroy any number of different chemicals and liquids which are being manufactured, they will ruin new and old paint jobs on aircraft, and they can contaminate food which is being made or packaged. These types of ruined products often cost millions of dollars in waste.

HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH URBAN PEST BIRDS

Droppings and nesting materials on or around a building send a message to the public that this building is not properly maintained. One is forced to wonder how clean a restaurant’s kitchen could be if they don’t even care about bird droppings dripping down the sign.

Collapsed Ceilings

Pigeons have been know to enter attics of houses, apartments, restaurants and other buildings through openings that have been either broken or never sealed off in the first place. In most cases the pigeons set up homes in these protected areas, build nests and discard their bodily waste. Often the weight of the droppings becomes so great that the actual ceiling collapses. One would guess that this type of occurrence would be extremely random but it happens with alarming frequency.

The general public’s affection toward birds translates into a serious underestimation of the health risks associated with pest birds. People who would never tolerate a colony of rats living in their attic will turn a blind eye towards pigeons entrenched in the rafters of their roof. Yet, in terms of disease and damage, the two pests are quite similar. In order to better understand how nuisance birds (or rats for that matter) spread disease we need to understand the basics of disease and transmission.

What is a Disease?

When normal body functions become disrupted due to a foreign invader or an internal malfunction, we call the disruption a disease. Diseases caused by foreign invaders are called infectious diseases. The invading agents that account for the majority of infectious diseases are grouped in the following five categories; viruses, bacteria, mycotic (fungal), protozoal and rickettsial. From a layman’s standpoint, the classification and definitions of disease are less important than how these diseases spread and how can we protect ourselves from them. Diseases need to be transported from place to place in order to spread. Birds are a perfect mechanism for spreading disease because they travel great distances, harbour over forty types of parasites and can host internally over sixty types of infectious diseases.

Fortunately, human interaction with most bird species is minimal, thus drastically reducing any health threat from most birds. However a few bird species have successfully adapted to our urban environment. The pigeon, starling and house sparrow have learned to succeed living in our buildings and eating our food. Their adaptation to our communities has brought them into close proximity to humans. These three non-native birds have become a major nuisance in our cities and they pose a serious health risk.

How Pest Birds Harbour and Spread Disease

The five types of infectious agents listed above can be associated with birds in the following ways: the disease lives in the bird and is passed on when the bird defecates; the disease lives in the birds surrounding environment and is spread by the birds lifestyle; the disease lives inside a parasite that the bird harbours. From understanding how the bird harbours diseases we can demonstrate the four ways the diseases are passed by the bird to humans.

Food & Water Contaminated with Faeces

The most obvious example is when the diseased bird directly defecates into a human food or water source. In the summer of 93, New York faced a health crisis when several hundred people came down with a mysterious ailment. The illness was traced to sea gull droppings in an old city reservoir. Health inspectors are quick to shut down a food processing plant if nuisance birds are found inside. Besides direct contamination, airborne spores from drying faeces in air ducts and vents can settle on exposed food and transfer disease. Several thousand cases of food poisoning (Salmonella) every year are attributed to this disease transmission route.

Inhalation of faecal dust

As bird faeces and/or the contaminated soil it rests on, dries or is disturbed, microscopic pieces break off and become airborne. These airborne particles can contain dormant fungi and/or bacteria. When breathed into the lungs, the warm, moist environment of the lung lining provides a breeding ground for the infectious agents. Common symptoms of this type of infection are flu like in nature: coughing, elevated temperature, restricted breathing and general body fatigue, and last roughly two to four days. The vast majority of the time, the body’s defences will contain the invaders even before minor symptoms appear but in a small percentage of cases, major infection causing long term disability and even death occurs. It is worth noting that there is no known medical cure for internal fungal infections. After the Northridge earthquake, several thousand people came down with flu like respiratory symptoms. The ailment was called Valley Fever and was caused by people breathing in dust and airborne debris filled with histoplasmosis spores and related fungal agents stirred up by the earthquake.

Direct contact with faeces

Infection occurs when a worker or resident gets faecal dust or droppings in an open wound or cut. This commonly occurs when handling old rusty, sharp porcupine wire ledge products which are covered with bird faeces. The wound site becomes red, puffy and puss-filled. Antibiotics are often needed to cure the infection. In some rare cases, infection of the blood (Septis) or internal infection can also occur causing serious illness or death. Proper attire and care must always be used when cleaning a bird site or installing bird control products. If a cut or injury occurs, thoroughly wash and disinfect the wound and cover with a sterile bandage to minimize risk of infection.

Associated Parasites

Pest birds harbour ticks, fleas, mites and other ectoparasites. Parasites transfer disease in the following manner. The parasite bites an infected animal and sucks in blood containing the germ. When the bug bites its next victim it passes along the germ to the new victim. This occurs because parasites inject some of their saliva into the host when feeding. Over forty types of parasites live either on the birds, in their nests or in the places they roost. They are responsible for the transmission of several hundred viral and bacterial agents. These diseases include plague, encephalitis, pox and meningitis. Control of these parasites is a crucial phase of the bird control project. Paradoxically, this threat can be aggravated when bird control products are installed. Unless the parasites are exterminated when the birds are excluded from a site, the mites, fleas, ticks etc. will seek a new host, often the human inhabitants. Therefore, a proper bird control project will always include parasite extermination.

How to Handle Pest Birds Problems From A Health Perspective

Using our understanding of how nuisance birds play a roll in disease transmission, we can develop a few guidelines when dealing with bird infestations.

First and foremost, bird infestations are to be taken seriously but not irrationally. When evaluating a health risk potential look for the following: droppings or nesting materials inside air vents, birds around food or beverage production facilities, or large amounts of droppings in enclosed areas. These are the types of situations where disease can be spread. Remember, pigeons walking around your park bench are not cause for panic, while twenty birds living in the roof-top air ducts of a restaurant is a serious health concern requiring action.

Second, pest control professionals and D.I.Y consumers must take the proper precautions when tackling bird control projects. Respirators, goggles and protective clothing must be used when cleaning up bird sites, particularly enclosed areas out of the sun with large amounts of droppings and nesting material (please see our separate information sheet on protective safety equipment).

Finally, it is not enough to remove the birds, it is crucial to exterminate all the ectoparasites and thoroughly disinfect the site. Please refer to our page on bird waste cleanup for more information.

The Importance of Cleaning a Bird Site

Site cleanup is something that should be done, to some extent, on every bird job for many different reasons.

Droppings

Damage Bird droppings are very acidic and can cause damage to structures and machinery if they remain for extended periods of time. Cleaning a nesting site can also remove existing bird-related odors, reducing the birds’ desire to return.

Worker Safety & Ease of Installation

Working around droppings is unsanitary. It is also difficult for adhesives to adhere to a dirty surface.

Liability & Disease Potential

Bacteria and parasites from droppings & nesting materials remaining at the site are an even greater threat to building occupants as they will look for a new host after the birds are forced out. Many businesses must also be concerned with meeting federal, state and local cleanliness requirements.

Public Image

Installing bird control products on a dropping-splattered area gives the impression that you don’t care about the way the building looks, didn’t do the job correctly or used ineffective products – otherwise why would there still be droppings around?

Evaluate the situation carefully before cleaning a bird site. Some sites are much easier to clean than others. Cleanup of smaller amounts of droppings in open areas may be accomplished by simply hosing, scrubbing or pressure washing the area.

For more serious accumulations, you should follow these steps:

1) Bag and remove loose layers of droppings. (Be sure to wear protective coveralls, gloves and respiratory equipment when cleaning any bird site. Click here for more information on protective equipment). At all sites, debris and other nesting materials should be shoveled into double bagged heavy duty garbage bags and disposed of properly.

2) To remove remaining stubborn droppings, apply Dissolve-It. Mix in 1:1 ratio with water and let the mixture soak into the droppings for at least 15 minutes; droppings will generally wipe easily away with a brush and water (see page 7 for more information on Dissolve-It).

3) Follow with a clean water rinse.

4) After area is clear of droppings, apply Disinfect-It or other hospital grade viricide/ germicide to kill any remaining bacteria.