While most birds are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, three bird species—pigeons, European starlings, and house sparrows—are considered nuisance pests and are, thus, not federally protected against control, dispersal, or extermination. Care must be taken in any control efforts, however, as local ordinance may apply and should be checked.
There are several ways in which homeowners can control pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows, with the most effective generally being a combination of methods.
What Works for Pest Bird Control
- Eliminate, or reduce as much as possible, standing water and areas in which the pest birds can feed.
- Keep trash cans covered and areas clean.
- Never feed pest birds.
- Trim trees away from structures, and prune those seen to attract pest bird roosting.
- Add obstructions (such as spikes or sticky glues) to ledges where pest birds roost.
- Clean gutters to prevent standing water.
- If pest birds are feeding on the food in feeders set out for desirable birds, try changing the type of food used. If pest birds are a big problem, it is often advisable to stop using feeders during warm weather.
- Caulk or seal openings through which the smaller pest birds can enter. Sparrows can enter through gaps as small as 3/4 inch and starlings through one-inch openings.
- Block vent, eave, and loft openings with plywood, 1/4-inch wire mesh, or netting.
- Door strips (clear, plastic strips hung from door frames) can prevent bird entrance without completely closing off the entryway to people.
Bird Control Products
- Netting: Attaching nylon or plastic netting to the bottom of rafters will close off this area to birds, who are attracted to such areas for nesting and roosting.
- Spikes or porcupine wire: Placing spiky wires along the areas in which the birds land and roost will keep these areas off-limits. However, some maintenance is required as accumulated twigs and grass will reduce or remove their effectiveness.
- Repellents: Sticky, non-toxic repellents can be placed on areas such as ledges to discourage and reduce bird landing and roosting. These products also require maintenance, as they will collect dust and dirt and need to be reapplied regularly.
- Traps: Live traps, such as funnel traps, automatic or trigger activated, nest boxes, decoys, and mists, can all be used to keep from endangering non-target birds—which can be released without harm. Pest birds caught with these traps should be humanely exterminated rather than released, as the birds can find their way back from even 50 miles away or cause problems in other communities. (Local ordinances should be checked prior to any trapping initiative, as permits are required by some.)
- Nest removal: Continuing removal of nests, particularly during the spring and summer, can help to reduce sparrow populations.
- Shooting: Where permitted, shooting can be effective for flock reduction or dispersal.
- Professional control: As with the control of other pests, it can be advantageous to contact a pest control professional who has the knowledge, expertise, and access to professional products.
What Doesn't Work
- Although marketed for the control of birds, visual scares, such as balloons, plastic snakes, or fake owls rarely work for any length of time. The birds will quickly adapt to their presence and return to their preferred roosting or feeding site.
- Sound and flashing light devices can repel some birds from setting up roosting sites, but unless any such device is frequently moved, its effectiveness will be limited.
DIY bird control is possible, but it is critical that the bird be positively identified; all federal, state, and local regulations be followed; and all products be used only according to their labeled directions.