Community Bird Control Makes Flocks Go Away

Large bird populations damage property and threaten health. Here’s what you can do to initiate a bird-control program in your community.

Canada geese can pose a health risk--the nitrogen content in their droppings can contaminate water supplies. Image: Bureau of Land Management

When hundreds, sometimes thousands, of birds descend on a community, they can cover private property and public places with bacteria-filled droppings.

So if your yard, city park, playground, or other neighborhood gathering spot becomes unusable due to bird droppings, here are the best ways to get the birds to move on.

Work with local officials

Uncontrolled bird populations can cause problems for entire communities. Heavy concentrations of bird droppings are a breeding ground for bacteria and cause algae and bacteria growth in lakes and ponds.

Health risks like those make it important to bring local officials into your bird-control project from the very beginning. If you have an homeowners association, seek help there first. If not, call the health department. 

In either case, explain that the bird flock is making it impossible to use a community amenity, or causing trouble for a group of neighbors. It should only take a few hours to contact officials and then follow up with a thank-you call when the birds have moved on.

What can officials do about birds? Access resources you can’t. They can contract with the United States Department of Agriculture’s USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or a private vendor to institute community-wide bird-control measures.

If the birds limit themselves to your community association’s property, the association board may have to handle them. The Internet Center for Wildlife Management can help the board find a private vendor to handle the job.

As you lobby for action, expect opposition from animal lovers. Look to elected officials to control conflict between groups in favor of moving the birds and those who want them gone.

Bird-control is complex

Getting rid of a flock of birds that’s troubling a whole block, or even the whole neighborhood, isn’t as simple as you might think. There are a host of federal and state regulations you can violate when you go after birds on your own.

Some birds are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Other birds, like starlings, grackles, and pigeons aren’t protected, but getting rid of them is such a big job that a community-wide effort is the best solution.

Three ways to thwart bird flocks

When you want a flock to fly on, your community’s best bet is to use one of three proven methods: repel, relocate, or reduce. A few hours of research will tell you and other community members which is the best method for your specific problem.

  • Repel them. Communities like Tampa, Fla., have had success with sonic bird repellent devices that send out distress calls. Other locales have used dogs, bird netting, fencing, or natural spray repellents to discourage birds from flocking in a given area.
  • Relocate them. A wildlife expert can trap and relocate large birds or possibly harvest them. “With the proper permits, geese can be rounded up and—in some cases—made into poultry burgers to help stock food pantries. Needless to say, this can be controversial,” says Paul Curtis, associate professor and extension wildlife specialist at Cornell University.
  • Reduce population growth. You can stop birds from building nests or force them to abandon their eggs. For instance, you can reduce populations of English sparrows or feral pigeons by destroying their eggs at two-week intervals in the spring and summer. Some communities—including Hollywood—have successfully used contraceptives added to rooftop feeders to control pigeon populations.