Anti-Perching Devices-what are they and do they really work?
Nixalite, Hot Foot gel, spring wire, Cat Claw, Shock Strips, Bird Barrier Coil, what the heck is all this stuff? Does any of it work? Is it expensive? Will it work for sparrows and pigeons? Ah, bird control and the many questions.
Without question, the most difficult part for me of selling anti-perching devices to a customer is convincing him/her that it will actually work. I mean let’s face it, “Yeah, um, well you see there’s this gel that you squirt down all over the ledge, and O.K. it’s not poisonous or anything, but anyway, it gets on their feet, and they hate it, and they won’t come back.” And you call yourself a “bird control expert”-pretty confidence inspiring isn’t it-
First, let’s go over what each of these things are and what they will and won’t do. Then we’ll all be smarter (including me) and better prepared for that next anti-perching bird job.
Actually, “Nixalite” is a company. Nixalite and ABC Bird Control are advertisers in this publication. They supply anti-perching devices, netting, all kinds of bird control stuff. They’ve been in the industry a long time, and have good products (no, I don’t work for them, and this isn’t a paid endorsement-just keep reading). Nixalite, as an industry name, usually is a reference to stainless steel spikes. There are several manufacturers of “bird spikes” in the industry. Bird Barrier, Hot Foot, D&S Specialty Products (a.k.a. Fly Bye Bird Control) and I’m sure there are others. To my knowledge, Nixalite is best known for the all stainless steel spikes, and those babies are sharp! Most of the other manufacturers make stainless steel spikes that are set into a plastic base. Why a plastic base? Cost. One manufacturer makes “Cat Claw” which is an all plastic spike strip-no metal at all.
The basic premise of any bird spike strip is to take away the available area to birds by making it impossible to land. However, as with most things in life, you have options. Anywhere from 2-inch to 8 or maybe even 10-inch wide spike strips to use, depending on the width of ledge or area you are excluding. Now the obvious inference here is that if you have a 6-inch wide ledge, you need to use a spike strip designed for a 6-inch wide ledge, 2-inch won’t cut it. That’s the biggest problem with spike strips. It’s not the strip-it’s the bozo who installed a product designed to exclude birds from a 2-inch area-but thought he’d save a few bucks and install it on an 8-inch wide ledge. “Well, ya know those pigeons nesting instincts (sic) is pretty strong, they just pushed their way in there I guess.” Another failure for spike strips? Hardly. More like another bird control product incorrectly installed.
Spike strips do have their shortcomings. First, small birds will pack them with nesting material. If you’re trying to keep sparrows off a ledge-don’t bother. Especially if they’re nesting there-you just built half the nest for them by installing the spikes. Second, don’t put spike strips somewhere where access by maintenance or safety workers (like firemen) have to put they’re hands on them to “get there”. Your stuff will get ripped down, first of all, and secondly, who among us wants to install something that is going to stab a fireman or police officer in the hand while they’re just doing their job.
Generally, for pigeons, spike strips can be very effective. Just make sure you take away all of the area they have access to-even if that means installing two strips side by side.
Hot Foot Gel:
Hot Foot, like Nixalite, is a company. They also sell bird spikes, netting, shock strips, all kinds of bird control stuff. Been around for a long time as well, and when you think about it, “Hot Foot” is a great descriptive term for bird gel. Kind of like “Kleenex” bath tissue-who really calls it “bathroom tissue”? So, what about bird gel?
It’s actually polybutene gel. Another trade name is “Tanglefoot” (distributed by Fly Bye) which also makes perfect sense. Technically what polybutene gel (bird gel) does is stick to a surface, for a long time, in most weather. Here in Fresno, as I write this, we are expecting a high temperature of 106 degrees today (but, it’s a dry heat…)-bird gel can handle it-no problem-for months. Rain, wind, dust and grime, again no problem. Probably the best testament to the staying power of bird gel is a conversation with a painting contractor who’s had to “clean that @#&! off” before he was able to paint. Folks, the stuff lasts. We recommend that it is installed every six months in a climate where there are weather extremes such as snow and ice, or extreme heat (like good ol’ Fresno here).
The premise with bird gel is to make the target area so sticky and nasty that the birds can’t stand to be there because they have it all over their feet and feathers. And that’s exactly what it does. Again, for pigeons, and also for some small birds, bird gel is a good solution. Run a ½-inch bead of it in an “S” pattern on a ledge, just picturing any spot a bird could land or walk, and cover it up and you’re in business. About 75-feet of coverage per tube-depending on how heavy you lay it down.
What bird gel won’t do is rid a rooftop of loafing birds. Putting it all over the roof area probably isn’t going to happen, and telling your customer that you can “get up there with some gel and run those pigeons right off that roof” is a bad idea. You could address the ridges and shaded areas under the dormers as well as any ledges-but a magic pigeon vanishing potion it is not.
Spring wire is, I’ll bet, the least familiar to most of us. Manufactured and distributed by some of the companies I’ve already mentioned, spring wire consists of a thin wire, usually a twisted stainless steel wire, posts with bases, and springs. Picture a ledge 4 inches wide that seagulls are landing on. At one end you could install a 5-inch tall post in a plastic base that you glue or screw in to the surface. Then you attach a small in line spring to the post, then attach this thin wire to it and run it the length of the ledge, terminating at another spring and post combination. What you’ve essentially done with that wire is stop the gulls from landing on the ledge. When they land on your wire, because it’s anchored to two springs, it bounces up and down and they can’t keep their balance on it.
Sounds pretty straightforward right?? Actually it is. The trick is wire spacing, as in space between two wires, and distance from the wire to the “desired roosting surface”. If you try to exclude seagulls from a roof top (something I’ve done actually) using 4-inch spacing between wires, and 8-10-inch spacing off the “roosting surface”, you’ll be in pretty good shape. But, space those wires out a little more and they’ll squeeze in between them. Install them closer to the roof and the seagulls with smash them down to the point where all they do is make the birds bounce a little when they walk. And forget installing this product for small birds (see a pattern developing in this article here?) because they’ll just walk around underneath it.
I actually spent a little time writing about shock strips a couple issues ago. But, it’s worth mentioning again because there are quite a few manufacturers (Bird B Gone, Bird Barrier, Hot Foot and Fi-Shock to name a few). As many of you already know, shock strips are designed to be installed on ledges and rooftop areas, or under roof support areas, where birds land and roost. Birds step on the strip and “pow” they get zapped. Now it’s not supposed to be a lethal shock, just a “get out of here” jolt. This product, unlike some of the others we’ve discussed, actually does work well for most birds, small or large.
Shock strips are easy to work with, comparatively cost competitive, very low profile and long lasting. They come in several colors and you can install several hundred feet before you need another “power box”. Like everything else we’ve discussed, you do need to engage your brain when installing them. Running one shock strip down the middle of an 8-inch wide ledge and calling it good-is not good. Two strips would be best. Using one “power box” for 3500-feet of strip is also not good. And “just make sure the wire connectors are touching each other-don’t sweat the details” is never a good motto when relying on electricity to do a job for you. Go ahead, sweat the details. In addition, they are somewhat susceptible to being clogged up with nesting material. Think of it this way, if you have a 2-inch wide strip with two wires and you lay a 1-inch diameter stick across both wires, what is going to happen? You’re going to short the system out. Personally, I wouldn’t sell a bird shock job without a service contract that goes with it so I could periodically inspect the system and make sure it’s given the opportunity to function properly.
Other anti-perching devices:
Other items include, coil wire, spinning rods, plastic owls (yes, technically a plastic owl is an “anti-perching device” and no, they don’t work for that either). There are lots of other not as well known items. Of these, I think the spinning rods, manufactured by Bird-B-Gone are the coolest and most effective. I drove past a billboard yesterday that is a regular example of pigeon fecal destruction, and noticed no birds! Then I saw them, the spinning rods, two 6 to 8 foot rods on an electric motor-kind of like parking a helicopter on top a bill board. Just space them far enough apart to where they just miss each other, and no bird can land on that spot. Pretty cool I thought, and obviously effective.
Anyway, the point of all this is that there are some viable anti-perching products out there, available from several sources (hopefully I mentioned all or most of them, and gave everyone equal time). What the key seems to be, as usual, is installation that takes into consideration the limitations of that particular product. That’s why our customers contact wildlife control professionals. We’re the ones who have the know how and experience when it comes to making these products work. So familiarize yourself with some of these things, and the people who sell them, and let the anti-perching begin!