Not for the Birds
One of the most common questions I get via e-mail and at seminars is how to deal with birds. I realize that you’re thinking, “What do birds have to do with EIFS?” Well, if you’ve ever had problems with birds digging through the EIFS coatings and setting up shop within the EIFS, you know what a hassle this can be. This article will give you ideas on how to deal with our feathered friends.
Woodpeckers are the primary troublemakers. In chatting with a staffer at the local Audobon Society, he says the reason they like EIFS is two-fold. First, banging on EIFS with their beaks sounds just like (to them) bashing against a tree. Thus, it’s a natural act. Second, once inside, they dig out the foam and create the ultimate residence: warm, dry and insulated.
Many birds are migratory. Interestingly, this includes some woodpeckers. The fact that they left your building as a result of your efforts to hassle them may simply mean that they’ve headed out of town on their normal migratory trip. As Arnold says, “I’ll be back,” and so will they. I’ve heard countless stories of the return of the “same” woodpeckers (I mean, how do you really tell if they are the same birds?) to the same part of the same house. The point is that they do travel in groups and they do come back to the same geographic area. This brings up the first solution, a permanent one.
Cowboys and pigeonsGuns. Unfortunately there are laws about such things. The laws include such aspects as discharging firearms in populated areas, the “rights” of endangered species, safety and other serious issues. You may not be aware of this, but some “common” bird species are endangered, or at least are protected under the law from being killed. Some woodpecker species fall in this category.
Bow and arrows also work, but, trust me, if the bird is near the EIFS, don’t shoot. The arrow will go right through the EIFS. True story: This happened at a high school when students were practicing archery. A student with horrible aim hit the EIFS-clad school. The arrow stuck in the EIFS. The rest of the class found out, and had a ball making the wall look like a porcupine.
Fake snakes and owls sometimes work. Birds may be pretty dumb, but eventually they figure out that a snake that hasn’t moved in three months isn’t much of a threat. Putting a lot of fake animals all around the roof ridge and parapet of a building may scare away the dumb birds, but it’ll also brand you as the local nutcase.
I once tried, on my sailboat, to keep the crows from sitting on the mast and pooping on the deck by using a fake owl on the mast. It didn’t work. So I gave up and loaned my fake owl to a friend who had too many pigeons dumping on his deck at home. It worked. However, everyone knows that pigeons are dumb. If you want to try this approach, you can purchase these devices from West Marine via www.westmarine.com.
Poison, like guns, is permanently effective, but how do you induce them to eat it? They can’t read “Eat This Bird Food” signs, and I doubt you want to put poison in your bird bath (and also kill cute birds). Poison also may violate the rights of the birds (by killing them), as well as killing your pets. Not a good idea.
C'mon, feel the noiseYou can induce birds to leave temporarily by making noise. Yelling, firecrackers, beating on the wall, and so on, all work. But when you stop, back they will come. Not a permanent solution, but …
There are some geeky noisemakers that are reported to be effective. They emit a high-pitched sound (we can’t hear it, but critters can) that supposedly annoys birds and keeps them away. If you want to try one of these gizmos, check out the following Web site: www.bird-x.com. Bird-X makes all sorts of devices to chase away troublesome creatures. I’d heard rumors that the high-pitched noises (inaudible to most humans) that these devices emit can annoy pets. So you may loose your beloved dog as well as your unbeloved birds. No guarantees.
There’s a product called Ropel that can be applied by spraying onto EIFS surfaces. It’s supposed to taste totally disgusting, and hence defeats birds with good taste. It works when birds are in the pecking and eating mode. Thus it has potential for burrowing types of birds on vertical surfaces, like EIFS. Ropel is not completely permanent (water dilutes it, and it eventually “wears out”), but it is supposed to keep birds (and animals) away from things like dumpsters and various surfaces (including walls). When using Ropel with EIFS, Nixalite tells me you’ll need multiple initial coats, since the EIFS finish will absorb a bit of the first application. Ropel is available from Nixalite of America Inc. Nixalite’s Web site is www.nixalite.com.
The Nixalite people also make some sticky goop that, apparently, annoys birds. Called Tanglefoot, it gets in the way of the movement of a bird’s feet on treated surfaces. Sounds like Tanglefoot is best for flat surfaces like ledges and sills, i.e., not vertical walls. However, as we all know, EIFS is often used on non-vertical surfaces, such as EIFS window sills, and so on. Thus, this type of product may be useful with EIFS, too. Along the same lines, Nixalite also makes a product called Needle Strip, which is like Christmas tree tinsel, only hard and sharp. No bird in his little right mind would perch on this stuff; also works best for ledges, parapets, sills, etc.
With all chemical-type, surface-applied tactics, it’s a good idea to first try the candidate product on an inconspicuous wall to be sure it is compatible with the material on which it is applied, and to be sure that it doesn’t have other undesirable side effects (such as changing color or dissolving the foam insulation). It’s also prudent to contact the manufacturer of the specific EIFS products on the wall, to see if he has thoughts about what works, or doesn’t work, with its products.
The final solution. Putting heavy EIFS-reinforcing mesh all over your building might help in heavily infested areas. This is expensive and is not foolproof. When I was technical services manager at Dryvit, we received numerous calls about woodpecker problems, especially in the Southeast. One guy was really annoyed about it, and put a whole new EIFS basecoat over the old one. The new one had heavy reinforcing mesh in it. This was supposed to thwart the birds. Oh well, the birds came right back to the same part of the same wall the following season and augured right through it. The moral: Don’t give a warranty on birdproofness of EIFS.
Lastly, no doubt some readers of W&C have developed personal remedies for the “EIFS bird infestation problem.” This would make a good “Letter to the Editor” topic for the magazine. If you’ve got any surefire solutions or great war stories, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll pass it on.