Bird Control and Management on Sanitary Landfills

Birds are intelligent creatures, often persistent, stubborn, and difficult to manage.  However, targeted programs designed to limit access to food, water, shelter and other resources, combined with active dispersal techniques, can prevent them from causing economic, safety, and health conflicts with human interests. 

Bird control programs on sanitary landfills pose unique challenges to wildlife managers.  Landfills are required by various statues to control vectors that can cause harm to humans.  Yet they provide resources to birds and other wildlife that make them inherently attractive.  An unending stream of diverse and abundant food sources in many forms must be managed to minimize exposure to birds.  Daily cover and limiting active faces help, but some waste is nearly always exposed during operations.  Access to a readily available food source is particularly problematic during winter months when other sources are limited.  Water in the form of settling and leachate ponds, large open areas with sparse vegetation, perching sites, and other attractants are frequently present as well.  Birds such as gulls, blackbirds, starling, and pigeons will naturally be attracted to these features on landfills.  Even such simple attractants as blowing paper can serve to draw some species such as gulls and others.  Most birds have extremely limited olfactory senses, but some such as Turkey Vultures, have acute senses of smell and may be attracted to landfills due to odors emanating from the waste stream.  Other raptors may also be attracted as they hunt for birds and rodents that are present on these sites. 

Each of these factors contributes to the challenges landfill managers must address to limit disease exposure, unsanitary conditions caused by droppings and even dead birds, economic losses due to damage on-site and to nearby neighbors, and possible safety issues especially if landfills are located near airports or in active airspace.  Thus, landfill operators and wildlife professionals working on control programs face many challenges.

But there is good news! Active management of the waste stream by liming tipping areas and access to available food can reduce presence of birds and other wildlife.  Immediate compaction of trash and cover with sufficient soil at the end of each day’s operations is imperative and effective at limiting exposure of trash to birds.  Habitat management of inactive cells and reclaimed areas through proper revegetation is also highly effective.  Removal or configuration of potential perching sites through various devices can also limit the presence of birds on landfills. 

The most effective means of removing birds from landfills is the proper and judicious use of frightening devices which not only achieve immediate dispersal responses, but over time train these animals to avoid specific areas by denying access to resources.  Pyrotechnics of various forms are the most effective.  15mm Screamer Siren and Bird Banger cartridges and 12-gauge ShellCrackers along with launchers and appropriate safety equipment should be standard issue on every landfill.  Pyrotechnics – with dedicated bird control personnel – may be sufficient, and some landfill operators have achieved reductions in numbers of up to 95% using these devices alone. 

Use of pyrotechnics can be enhanced with targeted audio devices using species-specific distress and alarm calls such as the Bird Gard™ ProAmp and Super ProAmp.  LP gas cannons are also effective bird dispersal devices and are commonly found on many landfills.  They are most effective when they are regularly moved as active faces relocate. Radio controlled LP gas cannons, such as the Scare-Away Model R4, used only when birds are present, offer on-demand technology at an affordable price. Used properly, the employment of pyrotechnics – supplemented with other dispersal methods – helps landfills promote human health, manage safety concerns, and comply with state and federal regulatory requirements.  Every landfill needs this equipment in its toolbox!