There are now a couple of different manufacturers for electric shock systems. These systems are marketed by different companies and both seem to work well. The premise behind a “shock strip” is pretty straight forward; a bird touches the wire and gets a zap. I was particularly fond of Bird Barriers “Birds no like ZAP” ad campaign-I thought they did a good job communicating to all of us how the product worked. Anyway, both strips are a solid but flexible strip of plastic with two wires, basically melted into the plastic strip but still exposed enough to pop an unsuspecting pigeon. It’s a pretty nice setup really, kind of like installing weather stripping that will shock you.
We recently had a chance to use another style of electric shock system that is different enough from everything else that it made for a very interesting job.
How many of you have ever used or grabbed a hold of a cattle fence? Quite a jolt isn’t it. There are two styles of cattle fence “boxes”, pulsed and continuous. We chose the continuous style. Now before I go any farther-we didn’t just dream this up, we had seen it put into use before by another company, and actually, they did a pretty good job. What we did was adapt some existing technology and install a system that worked best for the customer.
The idea is to set up a series of brackets and wires-a top and bottom wire-where the top wire is the hot wire and bottom wire is ground. We used 20 gauge solid strand wire, which is inexpensive and pretty much universally available. In addition to the roosting and perching barrier that the wires alone create-add electricity and WHAM!, now were talking. It was pretty simple “Electrical 101” type stuff. Run the wires through the brackets, which we made ourselves out of bulk 90 degree angle stock (picture a piece of angle iron, same thing, only clear plastic), make sure you don’t ground the hot wire to anything and run leads from “the box” to the respective wires. We found that we could electrify several hundred feet of wire with one box. Splices and tie ins were really easy and anchoring and securing the system was pretty simple too. We were working on top of a hospital, so we ended up using some ropes, mostly to satisfy safety requirements and make everyone feel comfortable-but you know how it is when you’re chasing birds off a building, you have to go where they go, and that’s not always possible by walking.
What was interesting was that compared to other techniques, this electrical wire system was a lot more economical and very effective. I’d hate to do that job with netting, so many small areas, and a lot of roof peaks that you wouldn’t be able to do anything netting wise with anyhow. Anti-perching spikes?? You know, those things have their place, but this wasn’t one of them. This particular location had a large population of house finches, and they would have loved to use the spikes as nesting platforms.
We observed that the system was extremely effective for house finches and pigeons. I believe that any small passerine would be effectively repelled using this system. Pigeons, being, well, pigeons, can be a little more of a challenge. We observed that they did stop using the roosting areas we addressed with wires-but they still used the rooftop in areas. We then implemented a trapping and removal system using drop nets in some of the sheltered areas which we allowed them to enter and removed the balance of the population.
We also noticed that the birds quickly developed an aversion to wires in general in any configuration, electrified or not, on that rooftop. This observation leads me to believe that it could be possible to electrify only a portion of the wires in the system and still get the same results and save a little money, not much would be gained by doing that though, and I wouldn’t recommend it.
The bottom line was-we liked the system. It was effective, easy to install and inexpensive to the customer when compared with other available techniques. Sure, it had a few flaws that needed to be fine tuned-but isn’t that what we get called “the experts” for?
Anyway, all in all a good learning experience and a good tool for solving perching bird problems and one more piece of knowledge for NWCO’s to solve tough problems with.