Features February 1, 2000 Issue

Bird Wars Part 2

Readers say to try the bald eagle kite, Bird Gard and live hummingbirds.

In the May 15, 1999 issue we reported on reader Don Thomas’ experiments on the ICW in South Carolina with various types of bird deterrents. Here are follow-up letters with additional suggestions.

After the fake owl failed to work for Don
Thomas, he tried a more sophisticated owl
($18.99) with a motion sensor to initiate
“hooting” sounds and lights in the owl’s eyes.
Baught from Northern Tool & Equipment (800/
556-7885), Thomas cites poor results. “I have
to get my whole torso within 30 inches of the
thing to set it off,” he said. “This thing
wouldn’t react to a bird unless the bird fell
dead right in front of it!”

At my particular moorage, small visiting birds are not so much the culprits of signature bombings as are the gulls and crows that like to loiter on the roof of the covered docks adjacent to my mooring. When they take off from the edge of the roof, I (or rather my Nauticat 44) is right beneath them and an innocent target of their natural discharges. Quite because I thought it a clever sort of kite, I purchased from Jackite a very lifelike bald eagle—printed on tough Tyvek with a wingspan of about 3'—and flew it from a tall pole mounted beside the stern rail. There is a single wire stiffener (coat hangar size) that slips in slots cut in the wings. It has hinged hanging feet and a hinged fish in its talons.

When even the lightest breeze lifts it up to flying position (up or downside), you won’t see a gull or a crow in the vicinity! Even when hanging by a swivel in the tip of its beak, it evidently looks enough like a big eagle drying its wings that the offending species also stays away. Though in the category of the false predators, the action of wind on this “kite” elevates it to an active dimension (see photo on cover), unlike the owl or the fake snake.

Some of the boats moored here under cover employ what appears to be long swaths of Mylar, about 8" wide and many feet long, that is cut like fringe across the width. They stretch this along the underside of the moorage roofing (along sprinkler pipes and such), but it could as well be in sailboat rigging. This “frapples” brightly in the breeze and between the sound and the sparkle it appears to be an effective deterrent for birds.

Steve Brown
Seattle, Washington

 

A likely solution to the problem of birds taking up residence on one’s boat is available from Lee Valley Tools (800/871-8158). In their 1999 Garden Tools catalog, on page 27, they list netting which is available in two sizes, 30 x 29' ($22.50) and 30' x 117' ($72).

Will it keep birds off boats? It keeps them out of our blueberry patch!

Ed Harrow
Hopkinton, Massachusetts

 

We sail on Lake Erie, near Marblehead, Ohio, and have barn swallows under our docks. This is great because they eat all the mosquitoes, but the problem is in the recycled mosquitoes. The birds rest on the lifelines, and after many years of trial and error, I have a remedy to keep the birds away. I use wood clothespins that have the spring in the middle and run fishing line through the spring holes. They are placed about 3' apart, the length of the lifeline. When the birds land on the lifelines, the fishing line hits them in the face and they fly off. This eliminates the recycled mosquito problem. I have used this system for eight years with great success. All the birds roost on the neighboring boats.

Art Fenn
via e-mail

 

I’ve been a subscriber since 1981, and just when I think you’ve reviewed everything…!

We have moored our custom Tartan 30 in front of our house on Lake Washington for 17 years. Birds were a real nightmare. Before going sailing I had to spend an hour scrubbing down the decks. I tried almost everything—rubber snakes and lizards, pennants and of course the traditional rubber owl. Our decks looked like a miniature set for “Lost World.” They all worked for awhile, but the birds quickly acclimated and then went right on with their business. By frequently moving them to new locations I increased their effectiveness, but over time they even got smart to this tactic.

I considered shooting them, but my wife Alice was worried about holes and what the neighbors might think.

Finally, I developed a solution that was 90% effective over the long term. I strung dozens of small disposable aluminum pie tins on some small stuff (line) and ran it down each lifeline. To keep the pie tins in place I stoppered them with clothespins. Some combination of the noise, reflections and movement kept most of the birds away most of the time. About every two years I replaced the pie tins. A negative was that it was time consuming to rig and unrig. However, the time spent hassling with this was a fraction of the time spent scrubbing.

Now, if I could only figure out how to sell this through a marine store at a 1,000% mark-up!

Chuck Gustafson
Seattle, Washington

 

Your article mentioned an electronic device called Bird Gard but apparently it wasn’t tested. We have just spent a couple of days at Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, North Carolina. It is a lovely place with excellent facilities and no sea gulls. The pilings have flat tops and no sea gulls. There are no sea gull droppings anywhere and it is quiet. They are using the Bird Gard. If this place is any example, it is great and well worth $99.50.

Trisha Cooke
via e-mail

 

Don Thomas has exhibited one of the best approaches in dealing with birds and their droppings—a great sense of humor. However, we would like to make two points regarding our SHOO-IN-A-SOCK.

Mr. Thomas has indicated that it was “a bit of a hassle” to remove and store the units. It has been our customers’ reaction that the ease with which the pennants can be collapsed into the sock is one of its major benefits. That in fact is one of the features contributing to its patentability. Perhaps our instruction sheet is not clear.

In regard to the wear of our product, if Mr. Thomas or any customer has a problem with wear or instructions, they may call us at our toll free sales/service number. We will be happy to rectify any problem.

Thank you for your excellent review of our product.

James V. Keefe
Progressive Metropolitan Corp.
Park Ridge, Illinois

 

We are very pleased that Jumpo Birdtrainer came out with the highest rating along with one other device.

Although our test situation was very different, I experienced many similar findings with various devices on our test boat, a Cal 30 moored about 1,000 feet offshore in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Observations via telescope showed that our culprits were noddies and turnstones which spent the night on their floating motel, arriving in a flock at sundown and departing at sunup.

Although I was very unhappy to spend up to 1-1/2 hours scrubbing, I had to respect these feisty pests. Every year they navigate nonstop from Hawaii to Alaska or Siberia without crew changes, weather faxes or a GPS. Also, there are federal laws prohibiting injury to migratory birds as well as state and local laws protecting different species.

A major goal in the development of Jumpo was to give the birds an overwhelming emotional experience, but not to cause any physical harm. Thus the device has no hinges, metal springs or sharp edges.

The fact that Jumpos used in a cockpit containing freshwater still performed with “reasonable success” is amazing. Professional bird control personnel refer to “bird pressure” as being very high when there is food or water available; and low pressure when only roosting or resting. We generally do not recommend Jumpo for high bird pressure situations.

Jumpos should have been placed over the entire boat for the field test, not only in the cockpit. The directions recommend using one Jumpo about every 10 square feet. It is not necessary to continually reset the devices daily because once impressed by Jumpo, birds seem to respect even the sprung devices.

A set of six Jumpos costs $34 postpaid in U.S. and Canada.

Ron Darby
President, RAD Engineering, Ltd.
Kaneohe, Hawaii

 

Over the years, I have tried most of the methods Don 'Thomas tested with similar poor results. Interestingly, in our bay, birds are not much of a problem for boats in slips; it is on moorings out in the bay that birds are a major and never-ending problem.

Within the past few years, I have finally seen good results with a combination of four bird deterrents, two of which are permanently installed and require no routine effort.

First, I permanently installed a stainless steel “crown” on the top of the mast to prevent, especially cormorants, from taking their favored roost. This crown is a saw-toothed piece of sheet metal with a 2" flange screwed to the masthead fittings so that the sharp edge of the steel is vertical. Secondly, I strung stainless steel wire from the base of the spreaders to a point on the shrouds about 6" above the spreader tips to prevent roosting there. The third item is a simple light line strung from the mast to the backstay or topping lift about a foot above the sail cover. This prevents terns and others from roosting on the boom.

And finally, the item which Don Thomas might find helpful—bird netting. I purchased a 10' x 14' bird net from the gardening department of Home Depot, drape it over the line above the boom, and clip it to the lifelines with clothespins. It takes just a few minutes to deploy or remove. It works!

Many others in our bay use similar deterrents, either singly or combined. A favorite is a rake raised on the spinnaker halyard so that the flexible tines project above the masthead. I found that this works, but I either had to take time to remove it before sailing or put up with snide comments from boaters who are not on bird-infested moorings. I also found it difficult to raise the rake to the masthead without getting the tines entangled in the narrowing triangle of stays as it neared the top of the mast.

Peter Wetzel
Newport Beach, California

 

I have found a very effective system requiring little maintenance but it keeps larger birds away 24 hours a day, 7-days a week. The best part is that it is entertaining and fun to watch. This method keeps crows, blue jays, pigeons, and all other larger birds away.

Now you think that this must cost a lot or is very high tech but it is a very no-tech, cheap system and requires little maintenance but can cause sugar water drops on your deck. This washes up with a hose very easily.

I bought a hummingbird feeder and keep it filled. That is it! The hummingbirds are very aggressive towards any other birds that come close and if you have seen them kill bigger birds then you know how aggressive they can be. They can attack from above or below aiming their long beaks at the other birds. It is fun to watch but most of the other birds learn to stay clear, leaving only the occasional seagull to get stabbed or chased away. I have seen seagulls killed by the beautiful, harmless-looking hummingbird.

The only downside is if the sugar water leaks due to a poorly made feeder, or when you forget to keep it filled—it takes a while for the hummingbirds to return. It is not a perfect system but give it a try.

John Hill
via e-mail

 

I keep Whistler, my Westsail 32, on a mooring and have had problems with birds in two areas—on deck and at the masthead.

Ospreys like to perch on the masthead and enjoy their fish dinner. Apparently they don’t like the eyeballs, intestines or tail, as I would find these on deck, along with the blood. At first I glued aluminum nails to the masthead, pointed side up, with 3M 5200. The ospreys would return before the 5200 cured and I’d find the nails on deck.

I have a Forespar lightening arrestor on a stainless steel shaft, which is above everything else at the masthead. I seized a small block to the shaft and ran a flag halyard to the deck. I tied a plastic shopping bag to the halyard and hoisted it until it was just above the masthead. Worked like a charm but looked tacky so now I have a small pennant made of rip-stop nylon.

The birds on deck, boom and rails problem were driven off inexpensively by running 1/8" flag halyard line around the problem areas and tying plastic shopping bags to the line. It looks very tacky but it only takes me a couple of minutes to stuff it all in a small bag where it takes hours to clean up the bird poop. I used to hate plastic grocery bags but now when the clerk asks “Paper or plastic?”, I always take the plastic!

Christopher W. Chadwick
Palm Bay, Florida

 

Following publication of the May 15 article, we received from Bird Barrier America Inc. its complete catalog. These folks are into the business in a very big way, protecting skyscrapers, stadiums, parking lots and playing fields from unwanted birds. They offer training programs for installers in the “lucrative business of bird control,” and sell every product imaginable, nearly all in this report, and many more—from rotating propane Rotomat “guns,” to fences, netting, electronic screechers, such as Bird Gard, as well as eagle kits, Jumpo and fake owls. Reading their catalog reminded us that bird droppings can be a health hazard and that respirators may be advisable during clean-up.

 

Contacts- Bird Barrier America Inc., 1312 Kingsdale Ave., Redondo Beach, CA 90278; 310/793-1733. Eagle Kite, Jackite, Inc., 2868 W. Landing Rd., Virginia Beach VA 23456; 804/426 -5359. Fax 804/426-7190. Jumpo Birdtrainer, RAD Engineering, Ltd., 44-401 Kaneohe Bay Dr., Kaneohe, HI; 96744; Phone/fax 808/254-6678; www.lava.net/jumpo. Shoo-In-A Sock, Progressive Metropolitan Corp., 1224 S. Knight Ave., Park Ridge, IL 60068; 847/692-2161, 888/870-4880.

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