By Terri Williams | Jun 4, 2019
Spring is nesting season for most North American birds, which means they’ll be chirping, making nests, and laying eggs. Unless you still have nightmares after watching Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror thriller “The Birds,” our feathered friends are typically enjoyable to watch and listen to.
However, if birds decide to build a nest adjacent to your home, you may end up with your own horror story. Why? Nesting birds can cause more damage than you might imagine. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of having a bird nest on or around your property.
Why do birds build nests near houses?
You may be surprised to learn that birds often want to nest very close to houses—as opposed to, say, the woods. “They want a protected location: protection from predators and from extreme temperatures caused by direct sunlight,” says Dirk Van Vuren, professor of wildlife biology in the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at the University of California, Davis.
Some species are more likely to become home invaders than others. “Small birds, such as sparrows and starlings, love to nest in protected areas or gaps in siding, behind shutters, openings in conduit, dryer vents, under decks, and even on light fixtures,” says Kim Lewis, division manager of bird management services for Ehrlich Pest Control.
A bird nest may seem like a harmless thing to have near your house, but it can actually lead to some big problems. Like what, you ask?
Nests are seriously messy
According to Van Buren, the main disadvantage is that nests are, quite frankly, a big mess. “If the nest is made of grass and twigs, debris will appear below the nest,” he says. Also, eggs and baby birds can fall out, and dealing with them may be difficult for homeowners.
Birds can carry diseases
Sadly, birds tend not to wear diapers or get vaccinated, so having them or their fecal droppings near the home can be toxic. “Birds and bird droppings can carry many pathogens that are harmful to humans,” Lewis says. For example, dried bird droppings contain a fungus, histoplasmosis, that can cause respiratory diseases. Salmonellosis is another disease carried in bird droppings, and can be transmitted through air conditioners when birds are close to your HVAC.
“Droppings, debris, and dead baby birds can be a problem on decks, windows, and areas below, requiring regular cleanup,” Lewis says. Children (and dogs) like to snatch up up whatever they find on the ground, so this can compound the problems.
Nesting birds can cause physical damage
Once birds have taken up temporary residence, they can sometimes wreak havoc on your vehicles, roof, and your home’s exterior. “While not all birds are pests, some species—like starlings and pigeons—can be,” says Chelle Hartzer, an entomologist for Orkin.
“Bird droppings can corrode metal and concrete, while debris or feathers from nests can clog drains and gutters,” Hartzer says. Those clogs can lead to problems with your roof, basement, and foundation, and when birds get in your attic, they can destroy your insulation.
Nests can clog your dryer vents
Dryer fires cause $35 million a year in damage, and many incidents result from a failure to clean the dryer and remove lint from the traps, vents, and surrounding areas. “Birds will often nest in dryer vents, which restricts airflow and causes lint buildup,” says Jason Kapica, president of Dryer Vent Wizard.
So how on earth are you supposed to know if you have a nest in your dryer vent? You can probably see signs outside your home, but there are other clues as well. “Dryer efficiency depends on proper air flow through the vent system, and a bird or rodent nest will drastically impede this air flow,” Kapica explains. Another clue is if your dryer shuts off during a cycle because it’s overheating. “These issues can cause wear and tear on your machine and add anywhere from $18 to $24 a month to your energy bill,” he says.
How to stop birds from nesting
There are several steps that you can take to dissuade birds from building a nest in or around your home. Bird spikes are considered a humane solution that can be used to keep them off your house gutters and light fixtures.
However, Van Vuren concedes that inducing birds to nest elsewhere can be difficult, especially if nesting season is already underway. “Most domestic bird species in the U.S. are protected by federal or state laws, and it is against the law to interfere or disturb their nests during nesting season or harm the birds,” says Lewis. She recommends contacting a bird management professional to ensure that you’re following the laws.
Outside nesting season, Lewis recommends using a combination of approaches. “Use visual deterrents, like flashers, Mylar tape, decals on windows, and lights at night to help deter birds away from your property.”
You can also try to “nest-proof” your home. “This may include installing dryer-vent screens, chimney caps, or using sheet metal to seal openings in siding,” Lewis says.
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Terri Williams is a journalist who has written for USA Today, Yahoo, the Economist, U.S. News and World Report, and the Houston Chronicle.
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