Written by resident Bird-B-Gone Ornithologist: Dr. Rob Fergus
About: Dr. Rob Fergus is an ornithologist who specializes in urban ecology and human/wildlife interactions. Dr. Fergus received his Ph.D. in urban bird conservation from the University of Texas at Austin. After founding the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory in Austin, Texas he created additional bird conservation programs in Austin as the first executive director of the Travis Audubon Society. From 2004 to 2009 he was the Senior Scientist for Urban Bird Conservation at the National Audubon Society. Dr. Rob has teamed up with Bird-B-Gone to help answer pest bird questions closing the gap between the science of nature, and the nature of bird control.
Lets face it, most of us like to have birds around, but we have a problem with their droppings. The major complaint about bird droppings involve unsightly or smelly messes, concerns about property damage, as well as potential health risks.
Unsightly or Smelly Messes
Most of the time this is the real problem with bird droppings—we just don’t want to see them. While that is certainly understandable, birds are part of our natural environment so we shouldn’t be too upset about the occasional bird dropping on our car, house, or patio furniture. Bird droppings become more of a problem when we create structures like window sills, decks, or utility lines where birds come to sit frequently and do their duty. If bird droppings are accumulating the first thing to look at is how to alter the landscape so that the birds can’t physically come and sit where they are making the mess. This may be done with architectural or structural modifications to a building or other structure, or by installing bird spikes or some other physical deterrents to keep the birds from being able to land where they want to sit.
More rarely accumulations of bird droppings may cause actual structural damage to buildings, bridges, machinery, and automobiles. Bird droppings are acidic, which may cause some damage, but for automobiles the greater damage is done when car finishes expand in the sun and then contract around the dried bird dropping. When birds eat berries, their droppings may stain paint, wood, or stucco. To avoid property damage, wash bird droppings from any surface you want to protect as soon as possible. Use a hose with a spray nozzle or a wet rag. If the dropping has hardened, soak it with a wet rag or paper towel for ten minutes to soften it before rinsing or wiping it off. You may want to use a household cleaner or a detergent formulated specifically for killing disease organisms associated with bird mess cleanups such as the Microcide SQ Disinfectant.
Potential Health Risks
Bird droppings may carry dozens of disease organisms that can be transmitted to people. Risk to most people is usually small, but may be greater for young people, old people, and those with compromised immune systems. It is always better to avoid contact with bird droppings when possible, and to clean up thoroughly following the general cleanup procedures outlined by the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. The following are the two main diseases that people may get from contact with bird droppings, usually after close contact with large accumulations of droppings and mostly from breathing in fungus that grows on the droppings:
- Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a contact with or inhalation of a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum) which grows on bird and bat droppings. Many people are infected without developing symptoms, but the very young and old, and those with compromised immune systems are at increased risk of developing severe infections. Avoid areas with accumulations of bird droppings and if you have to clean up such a site, follow the directions in Histoplasmosis-Protecting Workers at Risk. For more information see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Cryptococcosis is another fungal disease contracted mostly by breathing in the fungal cells of Cryptococcus neoformans growing on bird droppings. Sometimes the disease causes pneumonia-like symptoms, while other times it spreads to the nervous system causing cryptococcal meningitis. For more information see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Other Diseases that may be transmitted from birds to humans through droppings include:
If you have concerns about possible exposure to these diseases, please contact your doctor or a health care professional. For more specific information about bird control products to keep birds from landing and making a mess on your building or other structure, check out physical deterrents that might work in your situation, submit a specific question to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call a Bird-B-Gone bird control specialist toll free at 800-392-6915.