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"As crazy as it may sound, this is a big problem all over," Boyles said. "When you have a corporate pond or a golf course or a tall building or whatever, you are creating the perfect place for birds to live. But that many birds can create a real health and safety problem. Then the next problem is how to get rid of them in a humane way."
"Anyone can go out there and just throw bait or set a trap, but then you have a bunch of dead birds lying around, which doesn't exactly add to your popularity," said Bruce Donaho, who started his business, Bird B Gone, in the bedroom of his Mission Viejo home in 1992 after a pigeon dropping landed on his dining companion at a Laguna Beach restaurant.
Banishing Birds to Nature
In the last six years the number of companies that specialize in the new industry, called "bird control," has jumped from fewer than 500 to more than 3,000, according to a trade magazine called Pest Control. No one has tracked how much money the firms take in overall. But one sector of the industry, companies that manufacture nets, repellents and other products to discourage birds, does more than $30 million in sales annually, up from $8 million five years ago. And the number is expected to grow as more land is developed and avian wildlife increasingly comes into conflict with man's clean stucco housing and backyard fountains.
'Bird Control' Yields More Firms, Profits
The number of birds making the mess keeps getting bigger. A decade ago Canada goose populations were so small it was an endangered species. Today there are more than 2 million of the birds in the United States, according to the National Audubon Society. Coot populations have not been measured, but ornithologists believe they are on the rise. And the snow goose population in North America is up from 2 million four years ago to more than 5 million today.
"We're seeing a change in mentality toward birds, that people want to get rid of them without causing them harm," said Stephanie Boyles, wildlife caseworker with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in Norfolk, Va.
The number of dog trainers who sell or rent the use of border collies and other breeds to chase birds away from lakes, swimming pools and anywhere else they congregate is on the rise too. There were fewer than half a dozen such businesses nationwide a decade ago. Today there are more than two dozen just in California, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
With wetlands, fields and forests that are natural homes to migratory birds disappearing beneath suburban sprawl, and Canada geese, coot and swallow populations booming, birds do hundreds of millions of dollars of damage a year making their homes in places considered people territory. They fly into airplane engines, graze the smooth grass of putting greens into dirt, make muddy nests under the eaves of million dollar homes and gum up hospital air conditioning systems with their germ carrying feces.
Today the firm sells spikes, netting and wire to keep birds from roosting where they're not wanted. This isn't bird feed we're talking about. Bird B Gone has 50,000 clients, including Disneyland and Sea World.
The bird busters are out there, right now probably, armed with nets, stuffed animals, sticky tape, even border collies all battle implements against an enemy that munches incessantly, tweets noisily and leaves calling cards no one wants.
"Some animals have just adapted to humans much better than others," Steuber said. "This time of year there's not a lot of green grass out there that's not irrigated. It so happens that California has 30 million people, and a lot of these people interface with wildlife on a daily basis. There's a lot of conflicts."
Boyles said thousands of golf courses, airports and other businesses across the country have contacted the group in the last two years for suggestions on dealing with birds.
But as the bird problem gets stickier, and environmentalists increasingly take the rights of fowl under their wings, the business of getting birds to roost somewhere other than the plum habitats man has unwittingly created for them is beginning to take flight.
The problems are not pretty. Swallows leave mud caked on Men Canada Goose Chateau Parka Grey Sale Ireland houses and churches. Pigeon droppings obscure the million dollar facades of Las Vegas casinos and the historical stained glass of churches. Coots chew well tended lawns down to dirt. Bird nests in electrical lines ignite.