Standing in front of the skyline and flapping your arms is considered one of the best ways to scare birds, the action supposedly mimicking an approaching bird of prey. Of course, this method is neither time or cost effective and, indeed, you would need to be super-fit to carry out this activity for any length of time!
This method is considered particularly successful on airfields where bird strikes can cause serious damage to aircraft engines and even fatal accidents... and where aircraft can cause serious damage to the bloke flapping his arms!
The ubiquitous scarecrow is now deemed all but useless, with birds often seen perching on the effigy's straw boater or outstretched arms!
Birds are such a problem that DEFRA commissioned a 50 page report on the various methods of control. Within its pages can be found all manner of deterrents, including helium-filled balloons - the intended species attacked the blue ones and popped them! Dead birds of the species you are trying to deter, usually keep live ones away, but having starling carcasses scattered around the car park may not please the members and, once removed - the carcasses, not the members - the birds return!
Birds can be a huge problem in and around sports and municipal facilites, with pigeons, crows, gulls and starlings top of the hit list. Others in the top ten include geese, cormorants and herons, especially in and around water.
"Every year we get asked 'how can we get rid of these "!*?*$%*£ birds," says Andy Bedoes of ABComplete Pest Control. "We have had enquiries about crows that are pinching golf balls during games, starlings that are making a real mess of a cark park when they come in to roost, gulls dropping pebbles onto a glass atrium, and just about every other reason you can think where birds are causing a problem."
So, are there any proven solutions?
"Years ago, it was thought that shooting was the only way to control birds," says Andy. "Then it was breaking eggs, then the way forward was to oil eggs. None of these worked!"
"The time spent, the method used and the effort put in, more often than not fail to move the problem birds on. No single method will be successful, because birds get used to it and will quickly learn that there is not threat. In addition, the techniques used are often being carried out at the wrong time of year."
"For example, flying a bird of prey to shift pigeons from a stadium when they have been roosting for years, or started to nest, is like shutting the stable door after the horse has gone. By far the best method is to stop the birds coming, in any numbers, in the first place, by making the area seem to be unsafe as soon as individuals start to arrive."
Once birds are established, can they be moved on?
"Yes, of course they can," claims Andy. "We use what we call our 'predator-death aversion method', which makes use of the bird's in-built self preservation. We con them into thinking they will be attacked by a predator, or shot, if they enter an area."
"Our methods include audio devices, kites, pyrotechnics, birds of prey, flashing lights and large cardboard cut outs of menacing eyes, to name just a few."
"You can easily make an area seem unsuitable for all species if you stand back and look at the problem, i.e. why are they here? Is it food they are after, roosting, keeping dry, nesting or whatever? Each situation will require a different approach."
For the crow family - magpies, jackdaws, rooks etc. - we opt for hand held audio devices worked alongside a suitable 'bang' to shift them. For pigeons, we would go for an audio device, along with a strong bird of prey and a kite to deep stamp the aversion. Random visits are helpful too as birds have an inert understanding of time. We would treat gulls similarly"
Starlings are averse to bangs, audio and flashing lights. Just a few evenings in a row, when they come in to roost, usually send them packing."
But, says Andy, you need to be aware that all wildlife species are afforded some form of protection under one or more pieces of legislation. "If you are not sure, get in a professional."
What can be done to what species?
The wildlife protection offered to birds that are regarded as pests make it a requirement that a suitable reason for control is needed. "Even wood pigeons feeding on a farmer's field can't be shot, unless non-destructive methods have been used first and failed," warns Andy. "You will need to justify the method before any species is culled."
These are the species that are mentioned in one or more of the general licences issued by Natural England:
Carrion or Eurasian Crow
Lesser Black-backed Gull
The licences can be viewed at http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/regulation/wildlife/licences/generallicences.aspx#3
"Think carefully if you go for bird proofing, it can work out very expensive if it's not positioned correctly first time," warns Andy. "The large national pest control companies will be rubbing their hands together if you give them a call for bird proofing."
"Look for one of the independent pest control companies, who will have pride in their work and want to get it right first time."
Further information and advice available from Andy Bedoes, ABComplete Pest Control. www.abcomplete.co.uk/proofing
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