In a recent 'Ask Real Estate' letter to The New York Times, an Upper East Side co-op resident lamented the flock of pigeons perpetually perched on the building’s window ledges, leaving behind droppings and feathers like unsavory calling cards. The column suggested that the resident contact the board and management to fix the problem, including having the droppings cleaned and strongly encouraging the birds to nest somewhere else. Additionally, a pest management professional quoted in the piece advised using an optical gel, a deterrent he characterized as “awesome.”
If none of those strategies seems like a catch-all solution, that is likely because when it comes to shooing - and keeping - pest birds away, there isn't any catch-all. Neither all birds nor all buildings are the same - yet birds and buildings go together like bees and...well, birds. At high-rises, the problems are self-evident, as residents increasingly encroach on what has long been the birds' terrain. But even low-rises have roofs that can draw in flocks, leaving behind unseemly traces and airborne assaults.
When people gripe about birds in New York City, they're really referring to pigeons, which are both hallmarks of the city and the most consistent avian headache in the lives of residents.
“I have found that pigeons look for empty apartments to land in,” says Steve Gold, President of Hudson View Associates, a real estate firm in New York City. “We have actually opened the shades so that the birds can see that the apartment is occupied, which sometimes helps in moving them from that location.” Outside of psychological warfare, Gold notes that one can use silicone to apply aluminum strips specially designed with little spikes to the window sills on which the pigeons usually rest. The spikes irritate the birds' feet, making the ledge an unappealing roosting spot and therefore keeping the birds at bay.
Echoing that last point, Steve Elbaz, founder and president of Brooklyn-based Esquire Management Corp. indicates that “There are companies that can come in to furnish and install spikes on window ledges and sills, roof lines, overhangs, things like that. And they've been extremely effective. Once you put them in, the birds go elsewhere. That's the cut-and-dry solution.”
Jay Cohen, Director of Operations at the Manhattan-based property management firm A. Michael Tyler Realty Corp., currently finds himself in a bird-based imbroglio. “We have pigeons roosting in the air shafts of a large, block-long building,” he says. “They're crapping on the windows and everything; there's no real way to control it. First, we used netting to rope off areas to which birds were routinely returning. But that's not entirely helpful, as the birds get very violent trying to fight their way through, at which point they need to be caught humanely and relocated to another area, and the netting needs to be repaired.
“We kept getting calls from residents saying that they saw another bird, or that they found another hole. Baby pigeons will repeatedly attempt to get back to their roosting area, and get desperate when it's blocked. Once you have a problem, it's non-stop. I'm the Birdman of New York, now.”
Cohen adds that his firm contracted a no-kill pest control company called Bye Bye Birdie. ”But these firms cost quite a bit of money," he says. "It's not $500. It can be us as much as $7,000 or $8,000 to take care of something like this. And you have to deal with it.”
Then there are the outer boroughs and the suburbs where there's more green space, and residents may even go so far as to invite birds in. “People will put up bird feeders, which can cause rifts among the residents,” says Elbaz. “I have a 320-unit association spread out over six acres in Queens, and there have been disagreements between residents over these feeders. Because it's not just birds that they bring in--there are squirrels and mites. So now that's a quarrel we have to contend with.”
The Blue Bird of Happiness this is not - it's more the Pigeon of Irritation.
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer for The Cooperator.