Why hotels need to pay attention to birds

Birds can cause real damage to both buildings and people. Photo credit: iStock / Ayman alakhras

While many hotels have plans in place to deal with a range of pests that crawl, combating pests that fly can be a bit trickier. Some birds can become a nuisance, and even a danger to the property. 

Much of the threat, said Shannon Sked, manager of innovations and continuous improvements at Western Pest Services, is in the bird’s waste, which is caustic enough to destroy concrete and steel over time and can spread diseases like histoplasmosis and salmonella as it dries. 

Where to Look

Rolando Calzadilla, bird and wildlife technical manager at Terminix Commercial, said birds generally like to congregate along roof lines, signage and parking garages. “Some hotels have outside dining areas and people can’t help [but] feed birds while they’re eating," he said. "This is especially true when the dining area is near a pool or beach.” Covered porte-cocheres are perfect for nesting birds, especially pigeons. 

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Most birds, said Frank Meek, technical services manager at Rollins, are looking for food, shelter, a place to rest or a place to roost. Birds are attracted to high areas like ledges and light posts, he added, because it helps them avoid nonavian predators.

“They often congregate around sources of food, making anywhere your guests enjoy food and drink—especially outside patio and open-air dining areas—very attractive,” Meek said. “When roosting and nesting, they will move to protected areas, like empty spaces or voids, garages and beneath overhangs.” 

Challenges

Birds’ attraction to ledges and hard-to-reach areas makes cleaning difficult. “[They aren’t] places that we normally clean on a regular basis,” Sked said. Regularly scheduled window cleaning might not include ledges and the 90-degree angles where birds roost. “And if there is bird roosting and nesting, most of the time, window cleaners would require a bird control company to come in and solve the bird problem first before they come in and do the cleaning,” he added. 

Rooftops, understandably, can take a lot of damage from bird droppings, and if a hotel’s rooftop is not a high-traffic area, this may not be noticed for some time, which makes it harder to combat. 

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is that many people simply don’t understand the danger bird waste can pose. As such, said Sked, hotel employees may spend lots of time on loading docks or rooftops with lots of waste, breathing in particles that will make them sick. “It's not something that they think of on a regular basis,” he said. “most of the time they look at it and they say, ‘I will get to it. It's not a big deal right now. We just got to get the birds out here.’ But meanwhile, that fecal material could have all different types of diseases in it.”

Solutions

Properly controlling avian pests involves modifying birds’ habitat to remove their access to food, shelter, roosting or loafing. “Habitat modification includes blocking access and repelling them away from the buildings with mechanical devices,” Meek said. “Some visual scent and sound devices are used at times.”

Solving the problem early on is also easier than trying to remove a large number of birds. “Anything you can do when there are only a few [birds] will work better than when there are many,” Calzadilla said. Keeping areas free from food debris can discourage birds in the first place, and signs that dissuade guests from feeding the birds can also help as long as the guests comply. 

Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist and VP of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association, noted that federal laws protect all birds except the common pigeon, the house sparrow and the European starling. “But in some places, all birds are protected, and special licensing may be required for control,” he cautioned. “A trained pest-control professional can work with hotels to implement an integrated pest-management plan that is in compliance with these regulations.” This plan is a process involving “common sense and sound solutions” for treating and controlling pests, he explained, and they avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach that may not work for every situation: “These solutions incorporate three basic techniques: inspection, identification and treatment.”

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