Birds are Unwelcome Guests

By Frank Meek International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC | May 19, 2010

However beautiful they may look from afar, birds quickly turn to pests when they invade your lodging establishment.

Birds can pester and infuriate guests and threaten your hotel's reputation as a clean and safe place to dine and lodge. Over time the corrosive acid in their droppings can compromise a building's structural integrity, resulting in expensive damage, while debris from nests can clog drains and gutters. Even more alarming, birds have been known to return to their nests with lit cigarettes, which can set the nest - and subsequently the building - on fire. Guests' and employees health is also of concern as birds can carry more than 60 diseases, including Histoplasmosis, a sometimes fatal acute respiratory disease. In addition, birds' molted feathers can result in human respiratory problems and bird droppings can cause serious infections.

There's no doubt that birds can't be tolerated by hotels, but controlling them can be challenging, especially when your establishment is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many hoteliers turn to an approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which takes a close look at pest biology and behavior as well as the specific problems they pose to a property. By stressing proactive prevention, IPM focuses on the reasons why pests infest properties in the first place so that hoteliers can select the most effective treatment method possible.

Let's first take a look at the three "pest birds" - pigeons, sparrows and starlings - and their identifying characteristics and behaviors:

  • Pigeons - Since wild pigeons can be found in virtually every city and in most rural areas in North America, there's a good chance you're familiar with these nuisance birds. What you may not know is that more than 50 diseases have been associated with pigeons, their nests and their droppings. Varying in color from white to black, adult pigeons are stocky, with short, rounded fan-like tails. They prefer to feed on seeds, grain and fruit, but they will readily consume human food, garbage and animal matter when their favorite foods are scarce. Pigeons tend to congregate in flocks that can reach large numbers, leaving behind significant amounts of droppings that can be carried into hotels via foot traffic.
  • Sparrows - Common throughout the United States, sparrows are pests for several reasons. They displace songbirds, replacing the desirable sound of songs with a noisy, monotonous chirping. What's more, their droppings can deface buildings and they are known to carry more than 30 diseases. These small birds range in color from black to brown, depending on their sex, and they prefer to nest in protected areas in, on or near buildings. Sparrows are the most prolific breeders among all bird species.
  • Starlings- Gathering in large roosting flocks, starlings are nuisance pests in both urban and rural settings. The current starling population is estimated to exceed 140 million. They carry more than 25 diseases and love to take up residence in building nooks and crannies. Starlings will eat almost anything and adjust quickly to city sounds and lights. All birds with the exception of these three are protected under one or more laws in North America. There can be sever penalties associated with harming birds or in some cases disturbing their nest sites. Proper identification and knowledge of the local laws and ordinances is critical before any type of control effort can be started.

Pest birds tend to congregate around hotel roofs, ledges, pools or outdoor dining patios for the following reasons:

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