The snow and ice are gone, your flowers and trees are starting to bud, and there’s a nice warm breeze blowing. Except for a possible freak May storm, snow is now permanently out of the forecast and summer is just around the corner. It’s time to remove the covering on the deck furniture, rev up the BBQ, and get ready for some outdoor party time.
As a nature lover, I always enjoy seeing the birds and other wildlife come back out of their winter hideaways with the advent of warmer weather. However, along with these wonderful sights and sounds of nature come the inevitable flocking, nesting, and pooping on and around your deck and other outdoor living areas. Cliff and barn swallows, sparrows, pigeons, and starlings are typical pest birds you may find dive-bombing your patio cover on the lookout for rotting fruits and vegetables, corn, seeds, and various insects and earthworms. So before your cool new deck looks like the floor of an avian sanctuary, here are a few tips to enjoy the natural world around you, just not quite so up close and personal.
Make sure any food from that marshmallow roast your teenager and his friends had last night are all picked up and thrown away, and wipe down your patio furniture for any sticky leftovers. Keep water containers empty and try to remove any standing water as soon as possible after rainstorms or watering your potted plants and flowers. If you have any fountains or other water features on your patio, swap the freshwater for saltwater to deter the birds from stopping by for a drink. Your pet’s water and food bowls, if left outside, should be covered as soon as they finish eating and you need to store the food in an airtight container.
Birds like to take cover in tall grass and nest in shrubs, so keep the grass mowed short and the shrubs trimmed. If you do see a bird building a nest on your property, carefully knock it down before it’s occupied. Once the nest is settled, you’ll need to check with a local animal control professional before moving it, as each state has different laws on bird removal. Besides, you don’t want to have to explain to your kids that you knocked down a nest full of little eggs or baby birds, do you?
We’re talking non-violent ones, of course. Not that scaring the bejeebers out of a bird is necessarily humane, but at least it will leave unharmed and intact. Plastic decoy predator birds like hawks and owls are easy to find in stores and are pretty convincing if they’re moved around regularly or otherwise automated. Birds may have tiny brains, but they’re pretty smart. If you leave the owl perched on the same railing for days on end, the birds will catch on and you’re back at square one. Another option is to use high-quality stainless steel spikes. Spikes are not really scary, but they will physically prevent birds from approaching or nesting in places where you don’t want them. They don’t qualify as a decorative option, but they are an effective one.
Birdy Pet Peeves
Birds get annoyed, too, and the list of things that irritate them can be narrowed down to basically three things: Shiny or reflective objects, high-pitched sounds, and odd-feeling textures against their tiny feet. The shininess hurts their eyes, especially when reflected in the sun. One cheap and easy fix is old-fashioned aluminum foil. You can tape it to areas where birds typically try to nest, usually under your deck or in the eaves of your gazebo or pergola, or hang foil strips from the tree branches above. Shiny party streamers, small mirrors, spinning pinwheels, or similar flashy items from the local garden store work great, too.
Apparently, birds have sensitive feet. Who knew? If they invade your patio plants and flowers, try putting a sheet of aluminum foil just under the soil surface. Birds don’t like the feel of the foil on their feet and will land elsewhere. Sprinkling baking soda or putting sticky tape on the eaves of your patio cover or gazebo will have the same effect.
High-impact sonic and ultrasonic sound devices should annoy your winged intruders and keep them away. Word of caution: If you have pets in the house, do some research first on the effects high-pitched sounds will likely have on them. Cats and dogs, especially nervous ones, can become more anxious, and the sounds can actually harm bunnies and hamsters. For a more natural solution, try ordinary wind chimes. The sharp tone of metal, along with its reflective aspect, is a pet-friendly way to keep birds off your deck.
Last Resort: Chemical Repellents & Gels
If you have tried everything and your patio cover still looks like a horror scene out of Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” then maybe it’s time to bring in a professional-grade substance. There are several chemical repellents, pastes, and gels on the market today, so there is a lot from which to choose. Be sure to find out some essential information before buying:
- Is the repellent safe and humane for the birds, in that it won’t do any irreparable damage?
- Is it safe to use around pets and children?
- How often do you need to apply the repellent and is reapplication necessary after any sort of precipitation?
- How will the repellent affect your lawn, garden, or other plants and flowers?
- In the case of a paste or gel, will it be noticeable on your house or other structures? How strong is the adhesive? Would you need to check it regularly to make sure smaller birds and animals don’t get caught in it?
Fixing up your Colorado custom deck with a few simple preventative measures will ensure it remains an outdoor escape for you and your family, not a convention center for birds and other woodland creatures.