Electric Shock Track Systems
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OverviewAt the time of going to press there is one UK manufacturer who is trying to launch an electronic shock track system into the UK but opinion seems to be divided as to whether or not such systems are legal according to the Wildlfe and Countryisde Act of 1981. Although the system may not cause actual bodily injury the electronic device is quite clearly calculated to frighten the bird and therefore may still contravene the act. We will keep you up to date. It is possible, however, to source these systems directly from the USA. According to suppliers, Electric Shock systems are effective with a wide variety of bird species but in the main, are used for the purposes of pigeon and gull control. Although Electric Shock systems can be used for virtually any application where a solid surface exists, the main application for the product would be for controlling pigeons and gulls on buildings in urban areas.
In the document ‘Review of international research regarding the effectiveness of auditory bird scaring techniques and potential alternatives’ Turner (1998) says of Electric Shock systems “...such electrical systems may be illegal in the UK.”
Electric Shock systems for use in the bird control sector are based on electric fence technology where electric fences are used to keep livestock in a restricted area without the need to install a permanent fence. The principle of the Electric Shock Systems system for the purpose of pigeon and gull control is to provide a low voltage Electric Shock Systems to the feet of any bird that lands on the electric ‘track’. Conventional Electric Shock systems consist of two wires, housed within the ‘track’ and running in parallel. One wire carries the current from the active terminal of the power box and the other wire is earthed and connected to the earth terminal of the power box. For the system to operate as intended one or both feet of the bird must make contact with both wires. Research has shown that when track is installed on a ledge to prevent perching the section of track housing the active wire should be installed closest to the leading edge of the ledge.One of the most common reasons for Electric Shock systems to fail is an inadequate supply of power to the track. The average power box will supply up to 9000 volts of current but if the voltage falls below 4500 volts some birds will be able to withstand the shock that they receive. Due to the fact that the power source produces up to 9000 volts of current and most power boxes use a standard 110 volt cable to supply current, inevitable leakage occurs from the charged wire to the earth wire, reducing the effectiveness of the track. This problem can be resolved by using an insulated cable with a resistance of at least 9KV. Another reason for failure is leakage of current through poor connections when joining one piece of track to the next. Some of the older and more basic systems require connectors to allow the track to turn corners and these also contribute to power losses. Debris on the track is also a major factor and accordingly, the system should never be installed beneath trees or shrubs which may drop leaves or branches on the track. Any debris lying on the track may result in the feet of a bird failing to make contact with both live and earth wires. The main advantage of the Electric Shock Systems system is that it is extremely low-profile and is therefore considerably more aesthetically pleasing than many other anti-perching and exclusion products. The average Electric Shock Systems system stands somewhere between 0.25 inches and 0.5 inches high and most systems are commonly available in several colours to blend in with the surface to be protected. The system is powered either by direct current (DC) mains current (AC) or by solar power, or a combination of two of these power sources.
Another advantage of the Electric Shock Systems system is that it can be provided on virtually any area of a building including the roof (tiles and ridge tiles), windowsills, architectural features (such as curved arches and window ‘heads’) and even signage and lighting. The system is versatile in respect of application and with recent developments in the design of these systems they are also relatively easy to install. Earlier systems were time consuming to install and required extensive fixings in order to hold the system in place. Earlier systems were also compromised by a lack of drainage during periods of heavy rain with a build-up of water resulting. Water was unable to drain away as a result of being ‘damned’ by the electric tracks themselves and water ingress problems were common. Newly designed systems allow water to drain away beneath the tracks.For the purpose of this review we will concentrate on the Bird-B-Gone ‘Shock Track’ electric bird abatement system as this system is a good example of a standard Electric Shock Systems system. The ‘Shock Track’ system is also widely available throughout the USA via several leading suppliers. The ’Shock Track’ system is available in several colours including grey, stone, black, clear or terracotta and is supplied in rolls of 100 feet. The ‘Shock Track’ system is ultimately flexible with the track bending 360° in any direction negating the need for right-angle connectors, as was the case with earlier systems. The ‘Shock Track’ system consists of a flexible UV protected PVC base (or ‘track’) into which two wires are ‘heat-staked’ into plastic – the electric current will pass through these wires. The ‘Shock Track’ is then laid over the area to be protected and attached to the surface by a series of clips that are glued in place with a strong industrial adhesive or fixed in place with nails, screws or self-tapping screws depending on whether the surface is wood, masonry or metal. Once the ‘Shock Track’ is laid the connection is made to the power source and the product is ready for use. The ‘Shock Track’ system can be powered by mains electricity (AC), solar power or by a battery (DC). If the system is to be powered by mains electricity the power unit must be installed in a weatherproof box to ensure water cannot come into contact with the unit. If a solar charger is used, the solar panel must not be obscured by trees, neighbouring buildings or architectural features to ensure good access to direct sunlight. If the system is powered by mains electricity this option will charge 1000 feet + of track but if using a solar panel the unit will only power up to 500 feet of track. The solar panel will need to be installed so that it is facing north in the southern hemisphere and south in the northern hemisphere in order to receive maximum sunlight. Technical specifications for the various power options are as follows:
‘Shock Track’ Direct Charge System
- Input voltage: 110-120 VAC, 60 Hz, 0.35 amps, 10 watts
- Output voltage: 800 volts (+/-) 20% open circuit voltage, intermittent AC output
‘Shock Track’ Solar Charger
‘Shock Track’ DC Charger
The DC power supply required to power ‘Shock Track’ is not currently available through BirdBGone but the supplier has confirmed that the unit is widely available from other sources.
Prior to installation the surface upon which the system is to be mounted must be cleaned thoroughly to remove debris, nesting material and bird droppings – this is particularly important if using an adhesive. The area to be protected must then be mapped out to ensure that the ‘Shock Track’ covers all potential perching surfaces including the ends of ledges. When installing the system on a flat surface the first row of ‘Shock Track’ should be installed as close to the leading-edge of the ledge as possible. Guidelines for spacing rows of ‘Shock Track’ are far from clear with the supplier recommending that rows should be installed with gaps of no more than 3 inches but then offering the following guidelines for spacing:
For a ledge or surface with a vertical wall behind:
- 1”-12” ledges – 1 row of ‘Shock Track’
- 13”-24” ledges – 2 rows of ‘Shock Track’
- 25”-36” ledges – 3 rows of ‘Shock Track’
For double-sided ledges or surfaces (such as a parapet wall) one row of track will need to be provided for each side of the surface and installed as close to the leading edge as possible. Further rows should be installed according to the chart below:
- 1”-4” – 1 row of ‘Shock Track’ on each side
- 4”-15” – 2 rows of ‘Shock Track’ on each side
- 16”-28” – 3 rows of ’Shock Track’ on each side
Once the area has been mapped out and cleaned the mounting clips then need to be installed as close to the leading edge of the surface to be protected as possible. The first row that would be installed would be the leading-edge row and subsequent rows would then follow. The mounting clips should be installed no more than 3 feet apart. The supplier recommends that although an adhesive can be used as the sole means of adhering the ‘Shock Track’ to the surface to be protected, the installation will benefit from the ‘Shock Track’ being fixed in situ as well as being glued.Once the mounting clips have been installed the ‘Shock Track is ready to be installed. The ‘Shock Track’ in unrolled starting from the furthest point from the power source and then the track is clipped and glued to each mounting clip as well as being glued to the surface to be protected between each mounting clip. Each section of the ‘Shock Track’ must then be joined together and this is achieved by crimping the two exposed wires from each individual section of ‘Shock Track’ with a ‘Shock Track Crimp Connector’. The ‘Shock Track’ is then ready to connect to the power source. The two wires from the ‘Shock Track’ are fitted with a ‘Quick Disconnect Terminal’ which is in turn connected to the power source. The ‘Shock Track’ can then be powered up and is ready for use.
There is much debate surrounding the use of Electric Shock systems and although suppliers suggest that the systems do not inflict pain on the target species this is normally in respect of larger birds such as pigeons and gulls for which the systems were originally designed. Animal protection laws in the USA, where these systems originate, are relatively lax compared to similar legislation in the UK. It is often the case that devices allowed for use in the USA, such as anti-roosting spikes with sharp pointed tips, would be illegal for use in the UK. DEFRA has confirmed that it is the responsibility of the user to ensure that any product used for the purpose of bird control is humane and will not cause pain or inflict suffering on the target species or any other species of bird that may come into contact with the product. DEFRA also confirmed that although there had been a flurry of UK-based enquiries regarding Electric Shock systems 2 to 3 years ago when the systems were being promoted in Europe, there have been no enquiries over the past 2 years.
When researching Electric Shock systems several years ago, the UK-based Pigeon Control Advisory Service International (PiCAS International) had extensive discussions with a leading US manufacturer about the use of Electric Shock systems. At that time it was clear that little research has been undertaken to establish whether Electric Shock systems were harmful to birds and the company concerned was unable to confirm whether these systems could harm or kill small birds. The response from the company was that they did not think small birds could be harmed or die as a result of coming into contact with the product but they had no evidence to support this view. It is clear that other than in exceptional circumstances, larger birds such as pigeons and gulls are unlikely to experience extreme pain or die as a result of coming into contact with an Electric Shock Systems system but the same cannot be said of small birds. If a bird the size of a blue tit or sparrow landed on an electric track carrying a current strong enough to deter a pigeon or a gull the shock may kill a bird of this size. The question of whether the system is a greater danger to small birds in wet conditions, based on the fact that water is a good conductor of electricity, is another factor that must also be considered.
All wild birds are protected in the UK and any user that installs a shock system which harms or kills wild birds, whether deliberately or otherwise, would be liable for prosecution.
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the UK’s Government body that oversees the Wildlife and Countryside Act and produces legislation to which the pest control industry must adhere. The following information is taken from a document provided on DEFRA website entitled: ‘Review of international research regarding the effectiveness of auditory bird scaring techniques and potential alternatives’. By J Bishop, H McKay, D Parrott and J Allan.
“Electrical systems such as ‘Avi-Away’ consist of a cable running along the area to be protected that is attached to a control unit. When a bird lands on the cable it completes an electrical circuit and receives a mild shock. The manufacturers claim that any distress calls given by the bird help to disperse others (Transport Canada 1994). However, such electrical systems are illegal in the UK (Turner 1998).”
“All these designs (anti-perching products) may help to deter perching birds but their success is dependent on all perches being treated to discourage birds from the area.”
DEFRA has confirmed that it is the responsibility of the user to ensure that any product used for the purpose of bird control is humane and will not cause pain or inflict suffering on the target species or any other species of bird that may come into contact with the product.
The ’Shock Track’ system is available direct from Bird-B-Gone or via their distributors in Europe. Prices are as follows:
- 100 foot roll of ‘Shock Track’: $235.00
- Solar Charger: $115.00
- Direct Charger (AC): $50.00
- DC Charger (battery): $50.00
Crimps and a crimping tool will also be required as will adhesive and hard-wiring services if installing a Direct Charge AC box. A weather-proof box will also be required for the Direct Charge box.
To date we have been unable to find any user reviews for Electric Shock systems but we will update this section as and when user reviews are made available to us. If you are able to provide a user review for Electric Shock systems please contact the Pigeon Control Resource Centre.
Comments from the Manufacturer/Distributor:
At the time of writing no information, other than technical specifications, was available from suppliers of Electric Shock systems. Should any manufacturer or supplier of Electric Shock systems wish to comment on their products, or provide user reviews for their products, please contact the Pigeon Control Resource Centre.
Editorial comments:Electric Shock systems are not currently available from UK suppliers of pest control products and therefore if considering a system of this nature the product would need to be sourced direct from the USA. A number of reputable US-based companies supply these systems and shipping to the UK should present no problem. The cost of shipping would have to be taken into consideration where assessing the cost-effectiveness of the system.
The Electric Shock Systems system is a relatively new product and as such further research and development clearly need to be undertaken to establish whether these systems are safe to use against birds and whether they provide the user with an effective anti-perching system. Issues surrounding the effect of shock systems on small birds must be a concern for those considering the system due to the potential for prosecution should the product kill or cause suffering to any species of bird that comes into contact with the device. DEFRA has made it clear that any person providing a system of this nature without first establishing that the system is safe for use, both for people and birds, will be held legally responsible if the product contravenes the Wildlife and Countryside Act (section 5) or the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It should also be noted that in the ‘Review of international research regarding the effectiveness of auditory bird scaring techniques and potential alternatives’ on the DEFRA website, Turner (1998) suggests that Electric Shock systems are illegal for use in the UK.DIY installation on a residential property the installer needs to be in possession of a qualification that allows the person to undertake an electrical installation. In 2005 ‘Part P’ of the Building Regulations was introduced which effects all electrical work carried out in, on or outside a residential dwelling. Part ‘P’ of the Building Regulations dictates that any person installing a mains-powered electrical device such as an electrical shock system in or on a residential dwelling must be suitably qualified to do so. In order to undertake an electrical installation of the type required to install a mains-powered Electric Shock Systems system an individual must be in possession of a certificate such as a City and Guilds 2391 or the VRQ Certificate for Domestic Electrical Installers.
Electric Shock systems are expensive relative to conventional anti-perching products such as the anti-roosting spike and their installation is labour-intensive. The ‘Shock Track’ installation guidelines are not consistent with the approach taken when installing conventional anti-roosting products, with spacing of the tracks leaving large areas unprotected. If the ‘Shock Track’ installation guidelines are followed for installing the product on a 12”-wide windowsill only one row of product would be required, leaving up to 10” of the sill unprotected. When it is taken into consideration that the maximum extension of the foot of a feral pigeon is approximately 2.0” – 2.5” (from the furthest extension of the leading front toe to the nail of the rear toe), and based on the fact that both wires of a track need to come into contact with the foot in order to deliver a shock, a sill would require a minimum of 6-rows of track in order to be fully protected. Based on this calculation the volume of track required to comprehensively protect any surface would render the product prohibitively expensive.Electric Shock systems require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure that debris does not compromise the track and where the system is powered by DC current (supplied via a battery) regular human interaction will be required to re-charge the battery. There are also inevitable running costs when using mains electricity. All these factors contribute to make the system expensive to install and maintain as well as being extremely expensive to purchase. Shipping to the UK must also be taken into consideration.
Electric Shock systems have found a niche in the pest control marketplace due, in the main, to the fact that the product is low-profile and barely visible even when provided at low level. These systems may be appropriate for the commercial user that is more concerned with aesthetics rather than cost-effectiveness, but for the property owner on a budget the Electric Shock Systems system will hold little appeal.
PDF on DEFRA website entitled: ‘Review of international research regarding the effectiveness of auditory bird scaring techniques
and potential alternatives’. By J Bishop, H McKay, D Parrott and J Allan.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Protection of Animals Act 1911.
Also commonly known as:
Shock track, bird shock, bird track, pigeon track, Electric Shock Systems track, pigeon shock track, electric bird track
Relevance to pigeon control:
Electric Shock systems are pigeon-specific anti-perching products