Contemplate the beauty of nature for a moment. It often enhances our everyday lives – whether it’s manifested by the numerous species of small, cute mammals that scurry around close to our homes, the colorful gardens in our parks, or the grandeur of a summer sunset. Bird watchers will tell you how beautiful their favorite creatures are too, yet that beauty can be marred when birds become a nuisance or even a threat to life, health and property.
The threat that birds can pose to life was vividly demonstrated recently by the safe emergency landing of the U.S. Airways passenger jet in New York City’s Hudson River. Birds were implicated in that mishap. And the threat was further emphasized in a newspaper article that cited the fact that over the past two years commercial airline crews reported more than two dozen emergency landings, aborted takeoffs or other scary incidents due to collisions with birds.
Turning to Bird-X
In Borden, Canada, not far from Toronto, the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace and Engineering experienced another sort of bird problem. Though not as dramatic, it was nevertheless significant. The Canadian military unit turned to Bird-X Inc., a long-time Chicago manufacturer of bird repellent technology, to solve that problem.
“We’re a Canadian Air Force school for aircraft technicians and we train new servicemen and women who have completed their basic training and are beginning their military careers as airplane mechanics,” master warrant officer Ted Poper explains. “We have approximately 240 students going through the Aviation Technician course of study at any given time. We train about 800 Aircraft Technicians of various trades each year. The trainees here work on about 20 airplanes housed inside a massive airplane hangar, which encompasses about 40,000 square feet.
“Some months ago, a multitude of pigeons, purple martins, sparrows and other small birds found something about our hangar that was very much to their liking and began nesting there. You can probably guess the rest.”
According to MWO Poper, the staff and trainees would come to work on a Monday morning after a weekend away from the hangar and unhappily find bird excrement all over the place, including the tops of the planes. Their complaints were immediate, loud and clear.
“Bird excrement, unabated, can be corrosive and harm the surfaces of the aircraft and the hangar itself. And, it poses a threat to health. Lung disease can occur in humans after too much exposure to it,” he adds.
They had to do something fast and first hired a cleaning contracting company to come in and do away with the nests and clean up the excrement. “The contractor couldn’t believe all the straw that they found,” says Poper. “They cleaned all the rafters and the hangar doors.
“We then purchased and installed a BirdXPeller PRO, a digital, programmable bird repeller that uses birds’ own natural distress calls and the squawks of predator birds to create a ‘danger zone’ that scares and keeps birds away. Also, the cleaning contractor undertook the necessary effort of installing bird netting to keep the rafters out of reach of the nesters. It took them three weeks to stretch the netting across the hangar ceiling.”
The BirdXPeller PRO was created about 15 years ago by Bird-X as a single species repellant, according to David Kogan, the company’s marketing director. “But over the years we’ve upgraded it by adding seven more different bird repellant noises – the cries and calls of pigeons, starlings and other pest birds and bird predators. And we’ve added electronic noises as well.”
Kogan explains that Bird-X research and development studies found that birds react more to bird distress cries and predator noises than from the blasts of shotguns.
“The whole idea was to create a behavior modifcation tool that doesn’t harm birds, but rather scares them away. Our company’s philosophy is to take a humane approach to pest bird abatement rather than to kill them. You can cull a few from the flock but that doesn’t work. The survivors keep coming back unless they’re scared away. The idea is to make them leave of their own volition. If they do that, in their own way they teach other birds, by example, to stay away from the area,” Kogan explains.
Poper had used another Bird-X product with success when he was posted in Victoria, BC: the ultrasonic Quadblaster QB-4. He used it to get rid of the birds that had developed a special affinity for a hangar at a Maritime Helicopter Squadron.
A Second BirdXPeller PRO and Eight Terror Eyes
This time, after consulting with Bird-X representatives and describing the situation at the training school, Poper decided to purchase and install a second BirdXPeller PRO, along with eight Bird-X Terror Eyes.
The BirdXPeller PRO comes in a green, rectangular sealed box with a Plexiglas-hinged door in front. Inside is a switch offering a choice of low, medium and high frequencies. It comes in three different versions, according to Kogan. Version 1 emits noises that repel pigeons, starlings, sparrows and gulls. Version 2 repels crows, blackbirds, grackles, ravens and cormorants. Version WP repels woodpeckers.
Users can customize the BirdXpeller by selecting the frequency, volume, direction, and hours of operation. Its variable settings enable the product to be adaptable to many bird control situations.
The Terror Eyes, Kogan explains, are shaped like big, orange beach balls prominently decorated with the image of a giant horned owl, a predator of smaller birds.
“The image’s eyes are holographic, so it always seems like the “owl” is glaring at the birds from different angles. Because they are suspended in the air, winds blow and spin them around, which freaks out the pest birds,” says Poper.
“Now, about six months after we first confronted the bird problem by putting the netting, BirdXPeller PROs, and Terror Eyes in action, we can report great success,” he says.
“Of all the birds that originally messed us up, only two pigeons remain – we named them Healthcliff and Gertrude. They don’t cause much of a mess, but our maintenance people take no chances. They wear dust masks, leather gloves and goggles when they clean up after them. Why do Healthcliff and Gertrude refuse to leave? We’re not sure, but they seem to handle the noises emitted by the sonic repellers. We may have to trap them and evict them.”
Poper advises users of the BirdXPeller PRO to change the sound frequencies often. “Otherwise the birds might get used to the noise. We change the frequency daily-- from high during the day to low at night. The low frequency noises are heard by both birds and humans, and are especially disturbing to both. The high frequencies are only heard by the birds.
Bird-X Inc. was established in Chicago back in 1964, says Kogan. “Our first product was an ultrasonic bird repellent device engineered to affect pest birds by using an ultrasonic audio signal undetectable to human ears. Over the past forty-five years, we’ve continued to develop unique and effective bird control products and now offers a full arsenal of bird repelling devices and other pest and critter deterrents.”
The company’s mission is to provide non-lethal, humane, environmentally safe and ecologically sound products. “We regularly receive referrals from the Audubon Society, the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Animal Damage Control division of the USDA,” he says.
Bird-X products include physical barriers, such as bird spikes, sticky gels and bird netting; sound repellers, including the BirdXPeller, Critter Blaster and Goose Buster; ultrasonic sound deterrents such as the QuadBlaster QB4 and Ultrason X; taste aversions, including bird repellent sprays and solutions; and visual deterrents, such as the Bird Blazer, Terror Eyes, and 3D Coyote.
Effective Deterrents Used in Combination
“All of our products are effective deterrents, but used in combination (i.e. a sound device plus a visual device plus a physical roost inhibitor) they yield significantly greater results than any one product alone. This is especially true in situations where pest birds are particularly stubborn, where they have nested in one place for extended periods, or where an area provides food, warmth or shelter. A combination of Bird-X products works synergistically to create an aurally, visually and physically undesirable environment for bird and animal pests,” says Kogan.