UltraSonic Pigeon & Bird Control
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OverviewFor those considering a high-frequency ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarer it is extremely important to confirm that the area in which the unit is intended to be used is not inhabited by bats. Bats may be disturbed by ultra high-frequency sound and bats are a protected species in the UK. It is an offence to interfere with their roosting sites or to disturb them in any way. For further information on the law where bats are concerned please read the following webpage: http://www.bats.org.uk/batlaw/batlaw_in_detail.asp.
Ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers are electronic devices that produce high pitch emissions known as ultrasound. Ultrasonic pigeon & bird scaring systems have been introduced into the pest control marketplace due to the fact that ultrasound is too high-pitched for human hearing but falls within the hearing range of most species of birds. Most sonic bird scaring devices produce a sound that is audible to the human ear and therefore may cause human disturbance if used in an area of human habitation.
Ultrasonic systems can be used in a wide variety of locations without causing human interference making them an ideal choice for areas where noise-related scaring is not an option. The exception to this rule may be where women and young children are concerned. With age, the human ear looses the ability to hear ultrasound but in some women and particularly in the young, ultrasound falls within hearing ranges and can cause considerable discomfort and headaches. This may have the effect of restricting the use of ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers when used for pigeon control and gull control in urban areas and on industrial sites.
A wide range of branded ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers are available including a variety of combo units that combine ultrasound with other scaring techniques including:
- Ultrasound combined with sonic sound (audible sound)
- Ultrasound combined with sonic sound and strobe lights,
- Ultrasound combined with sonic sound, strobe lights, and distress calls
- Ultrasound combined with sonic sound, strobe lights, distress calls and predator calls
Whichever unit is chosen there must be an understanding that sonic sound, strobe lights, distress calls and predator calls all create noise that is audible to the human ear and may cause considerable nuisance to those within hearing range. The principle of an ultrasonic scaring device is to saturate an area in which birds are roosting or perching with high frequency waves that are unpleasant and irritating to the birds but which are harmless. Ultrasonic units are available for internal use (including external areas that are protected from the elements) and also for non-protected external use in open-air environments. Most units are extremely simple to install and require little or no maintenance. Both types of ultrasonic unit will commonly offer the following specifications:
- A constant 15-25 KHz setting (15 KHz for external model)
- A variable setting allowing the user to modulate the frequency between 15 and 30 KHz with different speeds or ‘warbles’ (15-25 KHz for external model)
- A high/medium/low frequency setting
- A combination mode which alternates the ‘constant’ frequency and the ‘warble’ output in timed bursts
- Up to 6500 sq feet coverage (3600 sq feet for external model)
- Power consumption: approx 10 watts (depending on brand)
If using a multi-speaker unit to provide 360° coverage the speakers can be sequenced in rotating order at speeds between 10 rpm and 110 rpm. Many systems also offer the potential to ‘daisy-chain’ or ‘slave’ additional speakers.
Most ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers are powered by mains electricity in an effort to provide the user with a maintenance-free option. Some manufacturers offer their range with a mains adaptor giving 12 volts DC as standard but will provide a unit with connections to a wholly DC power source (normally car/leisure battery) on request. Two manufacturers also offer an environmentally friendly solar panel option allowing the battery to be ‘topped up’ when exposed to daylight or direct sunlight.
Due to the fact that ultrasound travels in straight lines and will not pass through solid objects, a system providing multiple speaker options will provide the most comprehensive coverage. Some units also offer the option of installing extension speakers for use in areas that are architecturally complex. Due to the nature of ultra high frequency sound-waves that spread out in circular waves from the source, a multi-speaker unit with 4-speakers ensures that the sound waves overlap, providing total coverage.
The ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers that combine ultrasound with distress calls, strobe lights and predator calls are undoubtedly an ‘all-singing-all-dancing’ product that may be ideal for certain sites, but the stroboscopic and sonic elements may result in the unit being considerably less versatile in an urban application. As a roost inhibitor, for areas rarely frequented by humans (for example the underside of a railway or river bridge), the multi-faceted device would be entirely appropriate and may offer high levels of protection. However, the lack of an AC power supply in this type of environment will inevitably make the product more labour intensive. It is clear that the combo units are species-specific and based on their potential to create human disturbance, these products must also be considered to be highly context-specific.
Ultrasonic bird scarers are inexpensive to run consuming approximately 10 watts of electricity and in most cases (unless using a DC option) are virtually maintenance-free. The product is also non-lethal and environmentally-friendly. Ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers are no more expensive than other electronic scaring devices and can be installed quickly and easily without requiring specialist training. Ultrasonic bird scarers can be effective for use with many species of bird (according to the manufacturer) but as with all scaring devices, they may need to be used in conjunction with other deterrents and anti-perching devices in order to provide a comprehensive control system. Habituation (ie. where birds become accustomed to the sounds emitted through prolonged and frequent exposure) is always a problem with scaring devices and ultrasonic devices are no different. In order to be more effective DEFRA suggests that the product may need to be moved regularly. This will devalue the maintenance-free aspect of the device and where the product is hard-wired for an AC power source it may cause logistical problems.
According to manufacturers and distributors, ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers are particularly effective for use with pigeons but some scientists and independent experts in the bird control sector do not agree with this view. Daniel Haag Wackernagel, a leading scientist researching pigeon control, found that pigeons were not deterred by ultra high-frequency sound. Other scientific research discussed on the DEFRA website suggests that most species of birds do not hear ultrasonic sound in the range of 20 KHz and therefore there is no valid biological base for the assumption that ultrasonic can be used to any effect as a bird scarer. One British supplier of pest control products also provides a warning that ultrasonic products are unlikely to be effective with gulls unless complimented with other scaring products or anti-perching products.
One of the major disadvantages of the product, however, certainly where internal applications are concerned, is the potential to disturb bat populations. Should the unit be considered for use inside a building or roof void, it is strongly advised that a bat survey should be carried out prior to installation by an independent organisation rather than a pest control contractor.
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.
“Bio-acoustic deterrents are sonic devices that transmit sounds of biological relevance: recorded bird alarm and distress calls. In general, alarm calls are given when birds perceive danger, whilst distress calls are vocalised when birds are captured, restrained or injured. These calls are species-specific and can cause conspecifics to take flight. Alarm and distress calls, however, may also evoke a response in other species that are taxonomically related to the call-producing species (Baxter et al. 1999) or which closely associate with it. Responding to alarm/distress calls has a high survival value, therefore such biologically meaningful sounds are more repellent and more resistant to habituation than other sounds (Bomford & O’Brien 1990, Harris & Davis 1998). However reactions to distress calls can vary both with the species and the individual bird (Schmidt & Johnson 1983); in some groups such as gulls, alarm/distress calls initially act as an attractant with birds approaching the source, apparently to investigate, before flying away (Brough 1968).”
“A number of sonic devices and pre-recorded alarm and distress calls are now readily available commercially and such devices are widely used for bird control. Some devices can produce noise levels u to 110dB(A) (at six metres) and have a useful operating distance of 300 m (Scarecrow Bio-acoustic Systems website). In Haifa, Israel, more than 80% of visiting night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) were frightened off trout ponds when recorded distress calls of juvenile and adult (combined) night herons were broadcast (Spanier 1980, cited in Kevan 1992). Baxter (2002c; undated) found that distress calls resulted in immediate and almost complete clearance of gulls and corvids (crows, rooks and jackdaws) from landfill sites, though the effects were short-term (3-6 weeks), and birds quickly returned when equipment broke down. In deterring waterbirds from areas of oil spills, biosonics were highly species-specific but worked particularly well on gulls and some herons, with slow habituation (Greer and O’Connor 1994, cited in Reilly 1995).”
“Bio-acoustics are seen as the most effective and cheapest ways of dispersing birds from airfields, once the equipment has been bought and staff trained (CAA 2002). Only distress calls are used as birds react to these in a characteristic and thus more predictable manner. The calls are broadcast for about 90 seconds from a stationary vehicle approximately 100 m from the target flock.”
“Static, free-standing systems can be used on smaller areas, though a louder volume may be needed to effectively cover the area (Booth 1983, cited in Kevan 1992), but constant exposure to a sound that originates from the same location can quickly encourage habituation as well as causing a noise nuisance to adjacent areas. Mobile, hand-held or vehicle mounted systems that can be used in response to a bird problem are deemed more effective (CAA 2002; Booth 1983, cited in Kevan 1992), though they will be more expensive due to the labour involved. Brough (1969) stated that bird recordings and broadcasts should be made with attention to accuracy, signal strength and clarity, as a reduction in any of these would degrade the calls from a recognizable signal to a meaningless noise, so lessening their effect. More recently however, digitally recorded, high quality calls are readily available. Some birds, like pigeons and Canada geese do not produce easily identifiable alarm and distress calls, and the use of calls from other species may not be totally effective. Research into this problem is ongoing (N. Horton pers. comm.).”
“Broadcasts of raptor calls have been used in attempts to deter pest species from, for example, airports (Harris & Davis 1998) based on the theory that playback of the call signals that a predator is close by. Raptors, however, hunt silently and so the use of recorded raptor calls has no clear biological basis for use in such circumstances. However, the playback of a peregrine falcon call dispersed gulls at Vancouver International Airport (Gunn 1973, cited in Harris and Davis 1998), although this was not properly controlled (i.e. compared to the effects of other auditory sources such as random noise).”
“Sonic systems that produce a variety of electronically-produced sounds are also commercially available. They can emit noise at levels up to 120dB(A) at one metre (BanCannons website, Harris and Davis 1998). The range of loud and sudden noises they produce can frighten birds but as they have no biological meaning the risk of habituation is great (Harris and Davis 1998). Sonic systems like the Phoenix Wailer also produce bird alarm and distress calls as well as electronic sounds up to 119 dB(A) at five metres, though the volume is adjustable for use near built up areas (Phoenix Deterrent Systems Ltd). With static systems, frequent changes in location and adjustments to the sounds can reduce habituation (Harris and Davis 1998). There is no evidence that ultrasonic devices deter birds (Hamershock, undated). In fact, evidence indicates that most species of birds do not hear in the ultrasonic range (>20kHz) (Erickson et al. 1992, Harris & Davis 1998) and so there is no biological basis for their use. Haag-Wackernagel (2000) and Woronecki (1988) both found that pigeons were undeterred by an ultrasonic system.”
“High intensity sounds such as sonic booms, horns and air-raid sirens, at close range, can cause distress or pain, which will cause birds to leave. At greater distances, the sounds can cause startle reactions amongst birds, though for the sound to cover any distance, the sound level at its source would have to be of an extremely high intensity (Harris and Davis 1998). Greer and O’Connor (1994, cited in Reilly 1995) found waterfowl quickly habituated to airhorns and Martin (1986) observed that after four to six weeks, barn owls were perching on the generating units of ultra-high intensity sounds. This technique can cause hearing damage and other human health effects and so cannot be recommended (Harris and Davis 1998).”
“Systems using bio-acoustics are the most effective sonic devices available as they act on the birds’ instinct to avoid danger. Their effectiveness is determined by the use of species-specific calls and the availability of alternative areas to move to. Although such systems can be placed in a field on a random timer sequence, birds will quickly habituate to such a device if it is not frequently moved, and it may cause noise nuisance in adjacent areas. A manually-operated system that is used only when birds are present will be more expensive but will also be more effective and less likely to become a nuisance. With all systems, sound transmission will be influenced by ambient temperature, wind direction and reflections from surrounding features such as buildings, and such factors need to be taken into consideration when siting sonic devices (Scarecrow Bio-acoustic Systems website). As with most methods of bird control, an integrated approach using a variety of techniques is likely to be more effective and reduce habituation rates (Schmidt and Johnson 1983).”
There are a considerable number of branded ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers on the market and we have taken a small sample, listed below:
‘Quadblaster QB-4 ultrasonic bird and bat repeller’ with a 4-speaker system. This product appears not to be available from a UK supplier at the time of writing. Price: $495.00 Extra speakers available at $67.50
MPS1 Silent Bird Scarer unit. Ultrasonic 1-4-speaker system. This system is available within the UK at a cost of:
- 1 speaker system: - £175.08 inc VAT
- 2 speaker system: - £233.83 inc VAT
- 3 speaker system: - £292.58 inc VAT
- 4 speaker system: - £351.33 inc VAT
- Solar panel for the above: - £69.95 inc VAT
The MP3B Silent Bird Scarer unit is available from the same manufacturer and comes with a 4-speaker system and the addition of a strobe light mounted on the unit. The unit is available in the UK at a cost of £323.13 with the option of a solar panel for an additional £69.95 inc VAT
Another more basic ultrasonic unit, combining ultrasound with a strobe light and a sensor, is the ‘Ultrasonic Animal Deterrent’ and is available in the UK at the cost of £24.99 inc VAT.
The ‘Wailer’ range of ultrasonic/sonic scarers is a range of products manufactured in the UK that can be provided as sonic or ultrasonic units. The range consists of the following:
- The ‘Maxi Wailer’ – a fully automated battery powered unit costing £355.00 + VAT
- ‘The Wailer’ – a fully programmable unit with the optional extra programmer. The cost of the base unit is: £355.00 + VAT with the programmer costing £134.00 + VAT
- The ‘Midi Wailer’ – a general purpose unit available as a battery or mains powered option costing £260.00 + VAT for the battery option and £284.00 + VAT for the mains powered option
To date we have been unable to find any user reviews for ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers 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 ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers please contact the Pigeon Control Resource Centre.
Comments from the Manufacturer/Distributor:
The following manufacturer’s product description is for the ‘QB-4 ultrasonic bird and bat repeller’:
“The QB-4 uses solid-state electronic circuitry to produce harsh, but harmless, UHF sound waves. These sound waves are targeted at overhead bird & bat infestations. Their frequencies are above the human hearing range, so most people are not even aware of them.” “Four powerful Piezo ceramic speakers, placed 90 degree from each other, produce a dispersion of overlapping "fans" of sound for full 360 degrees coverage. The QB-4 ultrasonic bird & bat repeller may be regulated to maximize effectiveness. Speakers may function at a constant 20 kHz, modulate between 20 and 30 kHz at different speeds (producing a "warble") or in a combination mode which alternates constant and "warble" output in 12 second bursts. The speakers can also be "sequenced" (in rotating order) at speeds from 10 to 110 rpm.” “The irritating sound waves produced by the QB-4 ultrasonic bird & bat repeller will not harm birds or bats, but will attack them aggressively in any enclosed or semi-enclosed areas where they roost. The adjustable variations in pitch and sequencing make it difficult for the birds & bats to acclimate to any constant sound pattern.”
“QB-4 bird & bat repeller is designed to act as an important aid in routing birds or bats from their infestations in plants, warehouses and semi-enclosed locations such as loading docks, railroad sidings, tunnels, breezeways, underpasses and storage sheds.”
The following manufacturer’s product description is for the ‘MPS Silent Bird Scarer’:
“Separate speakers driven by one control box means the MPS system gives flexible speaker positioning options for areas that are difficult to protect. Each speaker supplied with a 10m cable pre-attached and protected against water ingress.” “As these devices move birds by causing discomfort, they tend to be effective on most types, however, if you have a problem with gulls, then it is most likely you will need the addtion of audible sound.” “Effective area of coverage up to 1500 sq. ft. per speaker. Effective distance up to 50 feet. The MPS can be used with between 1 to 4 speakers depending on how many you need to solve the problem.”
The following manufacturer’s product description is for the ‘Animal Away’ ultrasonic deterrent:
" Combines a sensors, ultrasonics, flashing strobe light to chase away unwelcome animals from your garden
- Safe and humane
- Use near flower beds, fish ponds, protect bird baths and feeders
- Weather resistant
- Easy to mount on walls, posts etc
- Effective range up to 85 square metres
“High-pitched frequencies deter cats, dogs and other animals from invading your garden. The signal is inaudible to humans but animals find the signal uncomfortable and leave. Other devices emit a constant sound, but Animal Away saves batteries with its infrared motion activation. The PIR sensor detects and triggers ultrasonic/sonic plus flash emission. Switchable to shift to a sonic sound.”
The following manufacturer’s product description is for the ‘Maxi Wailer’ ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarer:
"General purpose fully automatic bird deterrent:
- Battery powered general purpose fully automatic bird deterrent over arable crops.
- Potential for up to 8 slave units on long cables.
- Protects up to 12 hectares.
- Rotational sweeping movement of over 60 random combinations of pulsating high frequency audible and ultrasonic sounds.
- Random blast time - 10seconds to 1 minute
- Random interval - up to 15 minutes
- Light sensor control
Combines the ease of use of the Midi Wailer with the advantages of the sweeping movement of sound of the Wailer Mk5 but with the additional advantage of flexibility to upgrade to the fully programmable Wailer Mk5 with time clock controls by purchasing the programmer later”
Ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers offer the user a simple and low-maintenance bird scaring option that will complement any conventional bird control system but which is unlikely to be effective as a stand-alone control. Opinions offered by manufacturers in relation to the effectiveness of their products appear to differ quite dramatically from those provided by DEFRA and independent bird control experts. For example, scientific research carried out by Erickson (1992) and Harris and Davis (1998) suggest that most species of bird do not hear in the ultrasonic range of 20 KHz and therefore their conclusion would appear to be that there is no basis to suggest that ultrasonic devices can play any part in an effective bird management programme.
Putting the issue of effectiveness aside, ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers can certainly play a part in any control system where conventional deterrents and anti-perching products are used as the first line of defence. The product is versatile and can be used in a variety of applications but there are potential issues surrounding usage where the young or women are present due to the ability of these two groups to hear ultrasound. Broadly speaking the product is ideal for use where noise-generated devices such as sonic scarers or visual devices such as lasers cannot be used. For use in agricultural settings the product would be ideal as it would have little if any impact on humans, although time required to move the device regularly in order to reduce habituation and increase effectiveness must be taken into consideration.
There is a wide range of ultrasonic devices available on the market with prices ranging from £24.99 for a basic unit with a sensor to £574.47 for a fully programmable multi-speaker unit. There is no doubt that the more expensive packages offer the type of coverage normally only required by large sites or for agricultural applications, but if the devices have a marked effect on the target species then even the most expensive models must be considered to be cost-effective. Many of the more expensive units combine other media such as sonic and visual elements. Should these options not be required, or if the unit is to be used in an urban area, the more basic units offering only ultrasound are considerably less expensive and represent a relatively low investment for the purposes of trialling the product.
As a pigeon control product ultrasonic devices are unlikely to have much if any effect although manufacturers claim that the product is highly effective for the purposes of pigeon control. Independent scientific research carried out by Daniel Haag-Wakernagel confirming that pigeons were “undeterred” by ultrasound cannot be ignored by anyone considering the product. Where most users are concerned the issue of interference with bat populations must also be a consideration due to the legal implications of installing a device in areas where bats are present. It is an offence to disturb any nesting bird in the UK and therefore care must be taken to install the device in areas where protected breeding birds are not present. Failure to do so may result in legal action.
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.
Also commonly known as:
Bird wailer, sonic scarers, ultrasound bird scarers, quadblaster, wailer, silent bird scarer, electronic bird scarer, maxi wailer, midi wailer
Relevance to pigeon control:
Ultrasonic pigeon & bird scarers are considered to be a general scaring product and not normally associated with the control of feral pigeons but the product is marketed as a feral pigeon scaring device.