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Can Ultrasonic Waves Keep the Pigeons at Bay?

Pigeons have long been a part of urban landscapes. Romanticized images of older folks feeding them from park benches and children chasing them into the air by the flock, will forever be icons of inner city living. But, pigeons live in many geographical areas and can put down roots on private patios, balconies and poolside areas creating not just a nuisance and an unsightly mess, but a public health hazard. Pigeon feces can carry over 60 diseases including E.coli, Salmonella and Histoplasmosis – a potentially fatal respiratory disease arising from breathing a fungus that thrives in dried bird droppings.

Hope is in the air, however, by way of ultrasonic repellant devices such as those made by Riddex. For less than $50 and a handful of AA batteries, the Riddex Silent Bird Repellant promises to keep pesky birds away by emitting a high-frequency sound heard only by birds. When an infrared motion detector picks up the presence of a pigeon or other bird, the ultrasonic noise is set-off causing the birds to flee from the irritating sound.

As with many products, silent bird repellants have been met with mixed reviews. Some consumers report total success while others experience no effect at all, but if you plan to give them a try, here are some helpful hints to maximize the efficacy of the product and increase your odds of success.

Understanding how ultrasonic waves work is a good place to start. Most importantly, they travel only in a straight line and do not penetrate solid objects. So, unless you have a straight and clear path to where the birds have set up shop, it is helpful to purchase several units – or units with mulitple speaker options – in order to create a “surround sound” type of effect. And, if you are living in a complex or multi-unit type of setting, getting neighbors together to make a concerted effort is a great way to go. Ultrasonic waves can only travel so far (most units covering only about 20 linear feet) and this can create a situation where the birds gather next door or a few doors away.

Perhaps the most common complaint with silent repellants is they work for a short time until the pests become accustomed to the noise. To combat this, experts recommend starting with the lowest frequency and gradually increasing if necessary. Also, occasionally moving the units to different parts of the battle zone helps to prevent the birds from finding a comfortable, noise-free spot.

There are a couple of things to consider before installing silent repellants. One is to be sure to they are “ultrasonic” – not simply sonic. Sonic waves can be detected by the human ear causing a variety of symptoms including dizziness and headaches. It has been reported that some people – mostly women and children – are also able to detect ultrasonic waves. If any physical disturbances arise after installation, try disarming the devices and see if the symptoms go away. If they do, this method may not be the best way to go. Finally, while they are mammals, bats are susceptible to ultrasonic bird repellants. That may be an added bonus to many homeowners, but bats are a vital part of the ecosystem and are a protected species in many states. Simply call your local wildlife association before installation to be sure it is allowed by law.

Since there are many instances where silent bird repellants work very well, it is worth giving them a try. They are a humane, clean and low-maintenance way to rid your property of bird pests – and they are relatively affordable, especially if bought in bulk by your neighborhood association. Placing them strategically and observing the resulting patterns will dramatically increase your odds of success and keep the birds where they belong – in the park amusing the young and old.

Credit: Diana Cammarota