Bird abatement program banishes Mill Avenue's pests

Birds have been sparse on Mill Avenue for the past three years after the implementation of a bird abatement program. The program was put in place to prevent an overabundance of birds in the area. (Photo by Ana Ramirez)

Birds can go unnoticed until they leave droppings on a recently washed car, peck on a wall or chirp in the early morning.

The Downtown Tempe Community, Inc. has sought to prevent such problems for the past three years by participating in a bird abatement program.

Nancy Hormann, president and executive director of the nonprofit organization, said each year there are fewer and fewer birds in the area.

Hormann said restaurants, shops and patrons all complained about the birds, creating a need to fix the problem.

“Each season, when the birds arrive after the summer, we start by flashing lasers in the trees to disturb the birds and keep them from roosting,” Hormann said in an email. “We also deploy hawks (a natural predator) to fly around the area and scare the birds from congregating in the area.”

She said they keep the lasers throughout the fall, winter and spring to ensure the birds don’t return.

Birds “deterred” Mill Avenue’s pedestrian environment, she said.

“For years, Mill Avenue has been blessed with beautiful shade trees,” Hormann said. “What comes with those trees is a myriad of grackles and starlings. The bird droppings cover the sidewalks, fall on passing pedestrians and cover the cars parked under the trees.”

Hormann said the bird abatement program aims to disperse birds so they are not concentrated in the downtown Tempe area.

This will decrease the number of droppings and the chance for disease.

Vincent Forni, operation manager at avian control product manufacturer Bird Barrier, said pest birds could be an aesthetic issue and a health concern.

“The number one disease caused by pest birds is histoplasmosis, a respiratory disease … caused by dry spores (from droppings) that enter the air and you can inhale them,” he said.

"Pest birds" include pigeons, sparrows, grackles, crows, geese, seagulls, swallows and turkey vultures.

Unlike hawks and eagles, they are not protected under federal law.

People can do pretty much anything to them, Forni said.

“There are people who go out and shoot the birds and some use a feed that poisons them,” Forni said.

His company uses harassment tactics such as fences, spike traps and a bird-shock flex track that is similar to an electric fence to humanely get rid of the birds.

They also use OvoControl to prevent the fertilization of eggs, which reduced the pigeon population by 50 percent within the first year of its use in Italy and the U.S., according to the Bird Barrier website.

Zuma Grill employee Cory Adams said no birds have come into the Mill Avenue establishment during the two years he has worked there.

“We even leave the windows open sometimes,” Adams said.

Urban Outfitters manager Taylor Oberman said she has never had any problems with birds.

“It’s kind of gross looking out of our office, though,” Oberman said. “There’s a lot of bird poop.”

Urban Outfitters sales associate Cody Hill said he’s had similar experiences.

“I’ve seen a couple dead ones just chilling on the roof,” he said.

Interdisciplinary studies senior Marisa Ostos said Mill Avenue birds have never bothered her, but she noticed that they seem to come out more as the sun goes down.

“They would only bother me if they were above my head,” she said.


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