Understanding the Risks Surrounding Invasive Birds

The threat from invasive birds in and around commercial facilities, especially those involved with food processing, distribution and storage, is not to be underestimated. Not by a long shot.

Keith Rowney, Sprague Pest Solution’s manager of bird control services and a certified bird control specialist, shared that message with commercial property managers and food industry professionals on a recent Sprague Spotlight Webinar on invasive birds.

“Before the Food Safety Modernization Act was enacted, invasive birds were often overlooked by third-party auditors and government inspectors,” said Rowney. “FSMA mandates, however, place more emphasis on a proactive approach to the safe stewarding of food and packaging materials from farm to table and making sure birds do not pose a threat to your facility and its contents.”

The threat of contamination from bird droppings in and around commercial facilities is not new by any means, but today’s auditors and inspectors do not have to document an actual bird problem at a facility for it to be a problem. They can cite conducive conditions – unsecured doorways, evidence of droppings or the presence of birds in a nearby grove of trees – in their report.

“Bird issues are under closer scrutiny with auditors and inspectors, and they must be factored into a facility’s overall integrated pest management (IPM) program,” added Rowney.

The four species of invasive birds that commercial properties have the most issues with include:

  • Feral Rock Dove (pigeon)
  • Starling 
  • House Sparrow
  • Eurasian Collared Dove

Each specie has its own unique characteristics and present different challenges to property managers, their maintenance staff and the pest management professional charged with keeping them away.

“Pigeons have an uncanny ability to find their way back to their nesting site,” said Rowney. “Starlings are cavity nesters (vents, outdoor signage, etc.) and house sparrows are often referred to as the mice of the bird world because of their widespread distribution.”

Risks From Invasive Birds

The risks posed by invasive birds at commercial outlets covers the gamut and all can have negative outcomes for facility management and their customers. The five major risks include:

  1. Invasive birds spread disease that can result in food-borne illnesses including listeria, salmonella and E. coli.
  2. Bird droppings, nesting materials, feathers, shells and dead nestlings can contaminate food, pallets and packaging materials, food preparation and additional hard surfaces in a facility.
  3. The presence of invasive birds can contribute to other pest infestations including filth flies and dermestid beetles.
  4. The uric acid in bird droppings is corrosive and if left in place over time can dissolve finishes, metal and concrete leading to the risk of significant structural damage and failure.
  5. Issues surrounding contamination and sanitation due to invasive birds can lead to poor or failed audits and inspections, and government regulatory action.

Rowney expounded on the disease and health concerns posed by invasive birds and how they could impact employees, guests and visitors to commercial properties.

“There are both serious viral (encephalitis and meningitis) and fungal infections (histoplasmosis, candidiasis, cryptococcosis) that are associated with exposure to accumulated bird feces,” said Rowney. “Bird waste is also a leading cause of slip and fall accidents.”

Pigeon fecal matter and nesting materials can clog drains and scuppers resulting in conditions that could lead to a roof collapse and nesting materials used by starlings and sparrows are combustible and if located near faulty electrical wiring or signage can result in fires.

Damage to agriculture crops is another reason why invasive birds must be kept in check. Rowney said starlings are particularly threatening and have caused damage estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Invasive birds are quite adaptable to their environment and it requires stacking the effects of various preventive and control methods to achieve the desired outcome,” said Rowney.

For more information on how Sprague Pest Solutions can assist you design and implement an effective invasive bird management program for your facility, call 855.805.0755.