Spring has sprung in Atlanta! The daffodils are blooming, the grass is getting greener and many of us have begun waking up to the pleasant lilting of birds who have returned from their winter hideaways. It’s time to fill up your hummingbird feeders and plant spring flowers to attract the bluebirds and robins that we so enjoy seeing and hearing throughout the spring and summer. If only these spring birds were all harmless, pleasant, and know when to stop their song’s for a nighttime slumber!
Unfortunately, not all of our feathered friends are good neighbors to have around. Some of the birds that linger around our property are too loud at random points throughout the night, while others can cause damage to your home through their attempts to nest. Still other birds can present serious issues for your health and that of your children and pets due to illnesses spread through their droppings.
So what can you do about these nuisance birds? Read on for a description of some of the most common bothersome birds you’ll find in the metro Atlanta area, and what you can do about them.
First You Must Consider Federal Protections
We certainly don’t mean to insinuate that you would be willing to do bodily harm to the birds that are causing your so much trouble, but just in case, you should be aware of the legality of such a move. Many of the birds that are nuisances around your home are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918, which means you cannot kill or harm the bird, and you are also barred from damaging or removing their nests or eggs without a Federal permit. This might lead you to feel a bit frustrated, as it not only means that you cannot trap or move the birds yourself, but it also means most pest and wildlife control companies do not offer services for removing these birds. There are some specialized companies that will help you with preventing and repelling them though, but it is not as simple as the insect and rodent control that you are used to.
What’s Wrong with Canadian Geese?
If you spend a lot of time and money maintaining a lush green yard, you may have unknowingly sent out an advertisement to the Canadian Geese in your area. These birds are known to flock around ponds, lakes and grassy fields, but they particularly love well-manicured lawns. The large expanses of green space in the metro Atlanta area are known to attract new home buyers, but these pristine grassy areas are also a favorite of Canadian Geese, who often “forget” to migrate and instead choose to remain on our area year-round.
So what’s the problem with Canadian Geese? Many people find them beautiful and graceful as they glide across the surface of neighborhood ponds and lakes. However, Canadian Geese are not the best neighbors. For starters, they’re huge. With a 6 foot wingspan and an average weight of 14 pounds, a goose that feels threatened or is protecting their young can become combative if approached, easily knocking over a small child or pet. Also, they eat A LOT. An adult goose usually eats around 4 pounds of grass each day. Not only can their overzealous eating lead to problems with your yard, but all of that grass has to go somewhere, and an adult Canadian goose is known to drop 2 pounds of fecal matter each day. Because of this, goose droppings will quickly overtake the area where they are feeding, contaminating gardens, lawns, ponds and other water features, and may contain E. coli, Salmonella and other germs.
Getting Rid of Canadian Geese
You have a few options when deciding how to discourage geese from congregating in your yard. One method is to cover your yard in a bird repellent. These products come in liquid or granule form and can be purchased at your local home improvement store. According to experts, the most efficient goose repellents are those based on methyl anthranilate and anthraquinone, which are naturally occurring compounds that are safe for plants and pets.
If you prefer to use a non-chemical method to control the goose population on your property, you could try a motion activated sprayer attachment to your garden hose or sprinkler. Whenever geese, or any other animal, steps into the sprinkler’s path, they will presumably be startled by the spray of water and this will discourage them from remaining on your property. Another non-chemical option is to place animal decoys around your property. Geese are known to be afraid of coyotes and owls, so these are the ideal decoys to use. You will likely have to go through this scaring off process every year though, especially if your property is a goose magnet with a large expanse of grass and/or a pond.
House Sparrows, Small but Menacing
House sparrows are small, but aggressive. Measuring no more than 6 inches, house sparrows have been known to kill other nesting birds, even those much larger than themselves, and then take over their nests. They will also build their nests in the eaves and crevices of your home, and if no such alcoves exist, they have been known to create their own nesting hole in a home’s flashing or siding. This is bad for your home because the holes created by the birds can allow in moisture and pests. Even when they are not damaging your home, their incessant sharp cheeping can become a great nuisance, interrupting your sleep and creating an annoying distraction.
Driving Out House Sparrows
Because House Sparrows are considered a nuisance species, it is legal to kill these birds under federal law, though that may be something you don’t quite have the stomach for. However, because house sparrows can be so vicious in their killing of native songbirds, some people have no problem trapping the birds and then humanely euthanizing them. If that method isn’t for you, the next step is to remove their nests and prevent them from making new ones in your home. Check your home’s eaves for nests that may need to be removed, and check your entire home for holes in the siding where house sparrows may be nesting. The holes should be plugged up and fixed so that the house sparrows won’t be able to fly back to what they now consider their home. You may also want to place spikes on any ledges of your home where you have seen these social birds congregate.
Pigeons – They’re Not Just an Urban Problem
Pigeons go where the people are, which means they are no longer just a problem found in urban areas. As more and more people are filling up land in the suburbs, you’ll find pigeon populations in all parts of the metro Atlanta area. They’re a problem that can grow quickly too, as pigeons can have as many as 4 broods of hatchlings each year, and they’ll literally lay eggs anywhere – no nest needed!
You might be wondering how much damage can a few pigeons really do, but the answer is, a lot. Pigeon droppings are surprisingly corrosive due to high amounts of uric acid, and can quickly damage various parts of your home such as HVAC units. They can also block gutters and drains, and their droppings contain bacteria, fungus and ectoparasites.
Its much easier to deter pigeons than it is to get rid of them once they have taken up roost. If you want to avoid attracting pigeons in the first place, make sure you have removed all possible places where they could be obtaining food. Whether this is your outdoor trash can or food in bird feeders intended for other, more pleasant species, get rid of it so that the pigeons no longer have a convenient food source.
Other suggestions for getting rid of pigeons once they have taken hold of your property resemble the suggestions for getting rid of house swallows. Installing spikes on the ledges of your home near where the pigeons are roosting can be an effective deterrent, though the birds may simply take over another area of your home. Replacing any parts of your home where birds have already done damage can also help prevent further infestations.
There are over 200 different kinds of woodpeckers in the world, and the United States is home to 23 of these species. Their drumming can be loud, and when it is poorly timed, it can disrupt sleep, even if they are pecking from quite a distance away. What’s worse than the noise they create, is the damage woodpeckers can do if they decide to drum on your house rather than a tree. Each spring woodpeckers begin their drumming in order to attract a mate and alert other nearby woodpeckers that they have claimed a specific territory. However, the drumming may continue even when it is time to excavate an area in which to build their nests. If your home is what is being drummed, you’ll need to act fast before you have permanent holes in your house.
Much like Canadian Geese, woodpeckers are also protected under the Federal Bird Migratory Bird Act, so it is illegal to kill or harm them. Instead you can try scaring them away. Woodpeckers are frightened by flashing lights, moving objects, and anything that resembles actual danger they face in the wild. For example, owls and swans are known to scare off woodpeckers, so you can try strategically placing replica decoys where they are drumming. Loud noises are also known to frighten woodpeckers, and there are bird sirens on the market that claim to deter them.