March 1, 2004 | General

Reader's Q&A

BioCycle March 2004, Vol. 45, No. 3, p. 22

Q: I remember reading an article in BioCycle about methods used to keep birds away from tipping areas and compost sites. Please let me know what methods worked successfully.
A: Three years ago, BioCycle reported how a southern California site – just 2-1/2 miles from the Pacific Ocean – developed a very effective bird control program at a location receiving more than 3,500 tons per day of MSW, diverted food residuals and yard trimmings. Here’s a summary of methods used at the 15-acre composting area which was a half-mile from the landfill tipping area:
First step in setting up the bird control program involved a study of the behavior of birds, specifically sea gulls. “Data collection was essential to determine a course of action for the program,” explained John Howard, senior biologist with San Diego’s Environmental Services Department. Bird numbers and species were recorded on an hourly basis throughout the day so that effective tactics could be developed. Based upon the information, a multidimensional program was designed and implemented.
Biosonics were incorporated into the program. Amplification broadcast systems were strategically placed to intercept gulls enroute to the landfill.
Gulls mounted in “predeath” postures were randomly placed upon flat, open areas near the landfill. Monofilament line was attached to a metal ring mounted on the bird’s back and occasionally pulled by bird control personnel to simulate a distressed bird. The mounted birds were only moved when gulls were observed flying over or adjacent to the landfill.
Two types of pyrotechnics were utilized – cracker shells launched from a standard 12-gauge shotgun, and whistlers, which launched from a starter’s pistol.
A depredation permit was obtained, which enabled the program to use lethality as a back-up to nonlethal methods. Depredation is only used when nonlethal methods failed and when other gulls were present. Dead gulls are displayed in a distressed posture in areas where other gulls can see them.
Sums up Howard: “In 2000, the average number of gulls observed per hour ranged from zero from April through September, with a peak in March of 14. Currently only pyrotechnics and depredation are used to maintain this low level of gull activity at the landfill. Approximately eight to ten birds are killed annually.”
“By considering that the gulls are highly social, long-lived, intelligent and migratory in nature, the city was able to design a program that yielded excellent results. I believe that the ‘magic’ is due to elimination of the gulls’ biological tradition of utilizing the landfill and windrows as a foraging site.”
Reader’s are invited to send BioCycle their bird control methods. Email:

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