Bye-bye birdie: The poop on pigeon control

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By Teri Karush Rogers  |
June 23, 2009 - 12:20PM

Pigeons are the dirty little secret of many NYC apartment buildings: They render terraces unusable and devour facades with their acid-charged droppings. Worse, pigeons love to nest in rooftop HVAC systems, where they can potentially spread disease through an entire building, posing a serious risk to people with compromised immune systems.

“Diseases are carried in the feces—and when the feces dry up and become airborne, like when someone sweeps them, they can be inhaled or enter the body through any openings like your eyes or a cut,” says Bruce Donoho, owner of Bird.B.Gone, which manufacturers many of the bird control products used in the city.  The disease-bearing spores can also be inhaled by your window air conditioner and spewed into your apartment.

In the old days before it was banned locally, the silver bullet of pigeon control was Avitrol, a drug injected into birdseed and corn which disoriented the birds (scaring away the rest of the flock) before killing them and any other birds which happened to snack on the deadly offerings.

Fortunately, there exists an arsenal of less controversial pigeon persuasion techniques, explains Stuart Aust, the president of Paramus, N.J.-based Bird Doctor, Inc. The company receives about 10-25 calls a month from pigeon-plagued Manhattan apartment buildings, particularly the ornate prewar kind loaded with inviting nooks and crannies.

Here are some of the top techniques employed by pigeon-plagued NYC apartment buildings:

•    Jolt ‘em:  A thin, flat, electrified strip on window sills and other areas where pigeons land delivers a mild, unwelcome electric shock.  “They say it’s like static cling—it annoys them but doesn’t hurt them,” says Aust, whose company has installed BirdJolt strips in hundreds of city buildings, including the first four floors of the Plaza hotel and condo.  The strips also have the advantage of being less visible than spikes (below).

•    Spike ‘em:   It’s not as bad as it sounds—the tops of the spikes (typically placed on ledges and parapets) are dull so as to deter, not impel, the birds.  

•    Slide ‘em:  Build a 45-degree or higher angle on a ledge so the birds slide off.

•    Net ‘em:  Cunningly unobtrusive netting can be installed to protect terraces (and suicidal cats) as well as the rooftop HVAC systems where pigeons like to nest. 

“You’re basically training the birds not to land on the building anymore and to move on.  Pigeons especially are pretty much creatures of habit and territory,” says Aust.  But some experimentation may be necessary, as this discussion among board members illustrates.

Prices vary according to the size of the building and the plan of attack. A building-wide defense system can easily cost $5,000, says Aust, whose company charges by the day, plus materials.  BirdDoctor also performs smaller jobs, like netting off individual terraces or even installing a single spike on a window a/c unit ($295).

How did you or your building address your pigeon problem? What advice can you share?

Teri Rogers Headshot - Floral

Teri Karush Rogers

Founder & Publisher

Founder and publisher Teri Karush Rogers launched Brick Underground in 2009. As a freelance journalist, she had previously covered New York City real estate for The New York Times. Teri has been featured as an expert on New York City residential real estate by The New York Times, New York Daily News, amNew York, NBC Nightly News, The Real Deal, Business Insider, the Huffington Post, and NY1 News, among others. Teri earned a BA in journalism and a law degree from New York University.

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