If you’re dealing with nuisance birds, it may seem painfully ironic that there are people out there paying good money for birdbaths, bird feeders, and other attractants. While some species of bird are desirable, others can be inconvenient or damage your home’s exterior. Worse still, birds can wreck the hard work you’ve put into your home and garden.
As per the US Fish and Wildlife Service, wild bird species, with the exception of pigeons, starlings, and English sparrows, are protected by law, so it’s illegal to trap or kill them. However, there are plenty of legal, non-harmful ways to get rid of birds. Additionally, most pest control companies offer some form of bird control, so hiring a professional is always an option. If you’d rather give it a try yourself, here’s what to know and which bird deterrents to use.
Common Types of Nuisance Birds
Here are some of the most common types of birds that are considered pests in the United States.
While geese might look lovely gliding across a lake, they’re less pleasant when traipsing through your yard. They’re noisy, leave behind slimy droppings, and can become aggressive and territorial. With its black head and neck, white cheeks, and large, brown body, the Canada goose is the species most likely to give you problems. It may be a yearly hassle because of the species’ seasonal migration habits, or a nonmigratory flock may become a permanent problem.
A goose infestation is very obvious since you’ll see the birds themselves walking around your lawn. They’re typically attracted by water or food sources, including your turfgrass, which they may rip up and eat. Canada geese typically breed between February and April, making their nest in sheltered areas near water. If you see a goose nest in your yard, stay well clear of the nesting site—the parents may attack if they feel threatened.
Pigeons aren’t just a problem within cities; they may flock in rural areas, too. Because they can make a meal out of any type of human food, most flocks are entirely dependent on humans—and their garbage—for survival. This also means that they’ve lost their fear of humans, so occasionally causing them to scatter won’t be enough to keep them away from your property.
Unfortunately, pigeons may also transmit bacteria and fungi that cause salmonella poisoning, encephalitis, toxoplasmosis, histoplasmosis, psittacosis, and cryptococcosis. They are also known to carry lice, ticks, or fleas. If pigeons tend to perch or nest near your home, their droppings can become a problem.
While there are many different kinds of sparrows, the English or house sparrow is the most likely to become a nuisance. This small, brown bird is usually about 6 inches in length and can be found throughout North America, save for Alaska and northern Canada. House sparrows typically eat seeds and grains, but they can easily adapt to eating human foods, including garden plants and garbage scraps.
Like pigeons, sparrows can play host to and spread a number of parasites and diseases, including salmonella, E. coli, mites, and lice. They may make their nests in nuisance areas, such as electrical junctions, vents, gutters, or eaves, and these nests can attract other pests.
The common or European starling is a black bird that stands about 8 inches tall. Generally, the problem is not a single starling but rather one of the common huge flocks, called murmurations. Murmurations may consist of up to a million individual birds, though flocks in the thousands are more common. Like sparrows, they can eat unwanted insects, but more commonly, they cause problems by eating crops, gardens, and food waste.
The flight patterns of starling flocks can be quite beautiful to watch from a distance, but a flock can easily take over the entirety of your property. Nearly all starlings carry some type of parasite like lice or fleas, and their droppings can spread histoplasmosis to humans and animals alike. They’re considered an invasive species in most of the world and tend to push out native bird species.
Unlike starlings, it only takes one woodpecker to become a nuisance. They drill their beaks into trees and logs in search of insects with a distinctive, repetitive tapping sound, which can cause structural damage and noise problems. They can drill dozens of holes into buildings, trees, and fencing to weaken the structure and potentially provide homes for other pests.
Additionally, they may drum on gutters, chimneys, or vents as a form of communication, which has been known to drive homeowners to distraction. Although they aren’t known to carry disease, woodpeckers are notoriously difficult to drive off, and they may make their nests in wooden siding or boarding.
Bird Deterrent Methods
Since killing and trapping are neither humane nor legal in most cases, making your home less bird-friendly is the best course of action.
Many restaurants and other public venues use bird spikes in areas where birds or bird droppings would be a nuisance. Typically found along roofs, ledges, gutters, and light fixtures, these dull spikes, also called porcupine wire, deter larger birds like seagulls or pigeons from landing or roosting on the surface underneath.
Although some systems run a current through the spikes, more often, they simply provide an uncomfortable poke to any bird that tries to land on them. They may also deter squirrels, rodents, and other pests.
Although bird spikes are often inexpensive and simple to install, they have some downsides. They only keep birds off of the surfaces where they’re laid, so birds may still be able to land or nest nearby. Debris, like leaves and feathers, can get caught between the spikes. Finally, depending on the size and material of the spikes, they may be completely ineffective against small birds like sparrows. In fact, they may even entice birds that build large nests by providing structural support for nesting materials.
Typically made out of plastic mesh, bird netting is just what it sounds like: a net that keeps birds from getting at what’s underneath. It’s often used to protect crops without blocking sun or rain, but it can be purchased in smaller quantities to protect your home or backyard. It’s both long-lasting and effective as a physical barrier, and it’s inexpensive and easy to install. The US Humane Society recommends bird netting or bird wire strung up along ledges and window sills as the most humane way to repel birds. There are also types of netting to put on the ground near ponds and rivers to discourage geese from nesting.
Of course, you may not like the look of plastic nets draped over large swaths of your home or yard. It will only keep birds from getting to anything directly beneath or behind it, so it’s best used as a cover for fruit trees or as part of patching holes in walls and joints. If you have a roofed patio, you might consider enclosing it in bird netting as well. However, it would be extremely difficult to block off your entire yard using this material.
If birds think there are predatory animals in an area, they’re less likely to congregate or create nests there. Thus, you can purchase decoys of birds’ natural predators like coyotes, owls, and snakes and put them in your yard. However, birds are often more intelligent than people give them credit for, and though these decoys may be effective at first, they’re usually only useful for a few days or weeks. You may be able to extend this effect by moving the decoys around your yard periodically, but they’re not a permanent solution.
There are a number of DIY methods homeowners can use to scare birds away, and though they are inexpensive and harmless, they may be limited in effectiveness. These methods include dangling reflective tape from trees or window sills, or stringing up old CDs, small mirrors, or other shiny objects to reflect light and create visual disturbances. Similarly, features like wind chimes or lawn sprinkler systems may be startling to birds at first. However, just like with decoys, birds will eventually learn that they pose no real threat and ignore them.
Finally, while a low-current electric barrier is one of the most expensive bird repellent systems, it’s also the most effective. Birds won’t acclimate to low-current electric shocks, which are uncomfortable but don’t cause physical damage. Usually, this takes the form of electrified wire placed across the surface of a ledge or even the branches of a tree. Because of the difficulty of installation and expense of this method, it’s something of a last resort for residential use.
What Not to Use
You’ll find many other bird control methods out there, but some are ineffective, and others are inhumane. In the inhumane category are sharpened bird spikes, sticky gels, and poisons. These methods are dangerous to birds, pets, and humans alike.
Avicide poisons like Avitrol are considered inhumane for obvious reasons, and they’re illegal to use on most wild birds. Dogs, cats, and other carnivorous animals that come across birds that are dead or dying of poisoning may eat the birds and become sick, making poison a threat to your four-legged friends. In the long run, poison is also ineffective—you may kill off one flock of birds, but another will often take its place. It’s more effective to make your environment inhospitable to birds than to attempt to kill individual birds.
However, not all repellent methods are effective. Plenty of companies market ultrasonic bird repellents, which allege to make sounds inaudible to humans but loud and obnoxious to birds. However, unlike dogs and some other animals, birds hear in the same range as humans, so there’s little evidence that they can even perceive ultrasonic noise.
Other products with limited success are smell and taste repellents, noisemakers, and recorded bird distress calls.
Getting Rid of Bird Nests
Before starting your bird nest quest, remember that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects most bird species in the US. That means that interfering with the active nest of a protected bird without a permit is against the law. Additionally, it’s often hard for the non-expert to distinguish which birds and their nests belong to a protected species. Thus, we highly recommend hiring a professional if there are unwanted birds nesting on your property.
Overall, it’s better to employ DIY prevention methods like netting or wire to keep birds from nesting in the first place. Before disturbing a nest, call local wildlife control about your options.
DIY vs. Professional Bird Control
If the DIY repellent methods outlined above are unsuccessful, you’re best off contacting a pest management company about bird removal. Pest control professionals will know the best methods for dealing with pigeons, starlings, and sparrows.
Although they won’t be able to remove protected bird species from your property, they will be able to identify the birds they can remove, and they’ll have the right equipment and training to deal with the problem.
Our Recommendations for Professional Pest Control
When it comes to professional pest control, our first recommendation is Hawx. This relatively new pest control company has built up quite a reputation for itself since its founding in 2013. Available in 15 cities in 12 states, Hawx offers all-inclusive bi-monthly and quarterly pest control plans. Receive a free quote by calling 1-818-273-1741 or filling out this quick form.
If Hawx isn’t available in your area, we also recommend Terminix, which has locations in every state. This nationwide company has the resources to help you with your nuisance bird problem quickly and effectively. Fill out this easy form or call 1-866-569-4035 to learn more about Terminix’s service and pest control plans.
Another nationwide company, Orkin, is proud of its research-based pest management methods and thorough technician training. Although Orkin primarily offers its bird control services to commercial customers, the company should also be able to develop a customized solution for residential areas. For more information, call 1-877-868-1416 or fill out this simple form.
Frequently Asked Questions About Birds
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