When you think of household pests - that's pests, not pets - it's usually bugs and rodents that come to mind. In New York, however, birds are pests too; especially the overabundance of pigeons that congregate on buildings seeking food and shelter and leaving their feathers and droppings behind.
Pigeon messes are not only unsightly, but can also be hazardous to human health. An accumulation of bird waste can wreak havoc in vents, air conditioning units, and even on the delicate faÃ§ade of a landmarked building. According to Cameron Riddell, president of Bird Barrier America, Inc., a Los Angeles-based bird control company, pest birds cause tens of millions of dollars of damage every year to urban buildings, machinery, automobiles, roofs, ventilation systems and human inhabitants.
Riddell explains that "A well-maintained ventilation system shouldn't even have bird droppings in it, but we do see pigeon problems under ventilation systems, on exposed ledges, in crawl spaces, on signs, and on rooftops."
Aside from being unpleasant to look at, pigeon droppings also contain bacteria. Prolonged exposure to accumulations of bird waste can put residents at risk for life-threatening ailments, including histoplasmosis, a fungal infection that causes potentially fatal swelling around the heart. Other infectious conditions such as salmonella and meningitis can also result, according to Arthur M. Katz, president of Knockout Pest Control located on Long Island.
The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene's Bureau of Communicable Disease reports that in 1999, there were 15 cases reported among New York City residents - translating roughly to a rate of 0.2 cases per 100,000 persons. Not a staggering figure, but one that could probably be reduced to nothing if the problem of congregating birds is properly addressed.