Birds are wild animals. Therefore, it can be challenging, if not impossible, to predict and control their behaviour. But like people, birds are creatures of habit. So, if everything stays the same, they will not react. Though when the surroundings change, birds typically react by taking off.
Birds on offshore installations will most likely find remote areas to rest and nest – such as helidecks or the laydown area. Even though there might be some activity in terms of human movement and containers and equipment being loaded, it will probably not be enough to keep the birds away. However, there are a number of well-known ways to scare them away:
The most important step in keeping pest birds away is to prevent them from settling down in the first place. This is key when dealing with flocks of birds. Once you have one gull resting on your facility, it is only a matter of time before the headcount increases drastically.
It can be hard to avoid birds if your business is surrounded by an abundance of food such as crops in a field or an ocean full of fish and shellfish. Prevention in terms of scaring off the birds before they settle down is even more important if your offshore facility lacks human activity like an unattended oil rig or an offshore substation.
2. Spikes, sticks, and netting
The use of spikes and netting to prevent larger birds from landing is mostly employed on top of buildings and rails where personnel does not work or operate. However, small birds can easily overcome these barriers. You can also disturb the nests and destroy the eggs by using a long stick. This will make the birds feel unsafe and the environment unpredictable.
Scarecrows and predator decoys are simple and widespread deterrents, but inefficient. Another option is to use the wind to create movement in materials such as aluminium foil or twisting scare rods – an inefficient method that can hardly keep birds away from your own garden.
4. Trap birds
If your bird problem is massive, traps are not your best choice. Also, lethal traps are only permitted for certain species that are not protected by the law. The rest of the captives must be released, which requires a lot of manpower.
Another way to repel birds is by using chemicals that cause irritation when consumed or affect the birds’ nervous systems, making them feel aversion toward food. The active ingredients of such repellents include methyl anthranilate, anthraquinone, methiocarb, and the like. This method increases the risk of poisoning the crew and infecting the environment. So now you will be faced with a number of dead birds decaying on your installation.
6. Electronic bird deterrent systems
This scare technique requires extra spending but is considerably more effective. They can run day and night, all year round, and in all weather conditions. When sensors or cameras detect anything moving, these devices scare the birds using sound, laser, or by sprinkling water on them. For offshore facilities, these electronic bird deterrent systems have proven to be efficient seabird repellents.
→ Unexpected sounds
Pro: It will continuously scare the birds
When a bird is detected by the sensor camera, unexpected and unfamiliar noise will appear like the sound of gunshots, the clapping of hands, dogs barking, children playing, or people laughing. Birds can adapt to repeating and similar sounds since they won’t associate danger with a certain familiar sound. Yet, if the sounds and the order of them are random, the birds will naturally react by taking off. A bird deterrent system operating with 10-15 different sounds can work all year round. If the birds get accustomed to the different noises, it is also possible to change the library of sounds over time. This has proven to be a highly efficient way to scare off birds.
Con: It can be noisy
As a downside, this solution of scaring the birds with sound can also affect human beings on the facilities. Birds are active during the day and asleep at night whether they live onshore or on the water, so the sound doesn’t need to go off during the night – but on an installation like an oil rig, there are people sleeping at all times, even though there are more people working on day shifts than night shifts. If you have been working offshore for 20 years and are used to a humming generator, the loud sound of a dog, a child, or a gun can be a big nuisance. Unfortunately, ultrasonic sound doesn’t work on seabirds. Relocating the night shift crew to accommodations furthest away from the affected areas could be a solution to this problem.
→ Beams of laser light
Pro: It is less disturbing than sound
Laser beams are another way of chasing pest birds away. The laser beam seeks out their spots, disturbing them visually and causing them to flee – due to the coloured laser beam being detectable to them. Laser systems have been shown to change behaviour for some species of birds and can be useful as a medium to disperse bird colonies.
The down-side: It can be blinding and too weak
Laser beams should always be used in a controlled manner to avoid the risk of blinding pilots and personnel. That’s why some laser systems work using a specially-designed lens system, which broadens the laser beam, mitigating the risk of blinding people, yet increases the bird-repelling effectiveness. The laser has its limitations if it is not strong enough – or if the sunlight is really strong. Also, given its nature, it is more efficient at night when most birds are resting anyway.
At some platforms and offshore facilities, it might be helpful to mix two different electronic bird deterrent systems such as sounds and laser lights.