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Why do birds nest inside vents?

Canada is home to hundreds of varieties of birds. Their bright colours and unique songs make them a welcome sight in any backyard. We even use bird feeders, baths and houses to attract our favourites.

Unfortunately, the nesting and roosting habits of certain types of birds can often bring them into conflict with humans. Without effective control, some birds are capable of causing serious damage to homes. Their droppings can stain and rot building materials as well as create unhealthy living conditions for residents. A source of considerable stress and aggravation is the European Starling, as known as the Common Starling.

Originating in Europe, Starlings were brought to New York City by the American Acclimatization Society, a group dedicated to introducing to the United States all the species of birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s scripts. In the case of the starling, their efforts proved extremely successful as the bird’s range and population quickly expanded. By the 1920s, starlings were firmly established in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Their growth as a species can be attributed in large part to their extremely aggressive nesting behaviour.  As an invasive species, starlings compete fiercely for nesting sites with other birds, often displacing native species from their nests while they are in use. In particular, the North American purple martin has had its population impacted as a result of the starling’s introduction.  Today, starlings can be found in large numbers in urban centres like Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

Like most successfully species of urban wildlife, starlings are extremely adaptable. As a cavity nesting bird, starlings would traditionally make their home in tree hollows as well as crevices found in rock and cliff faces. As forests and woodlands have disappeared through urban expansion, starlings have continued to change and adapt their nesting behaviour. Starlings now seek similar holes on man-made structures and will make build their nests inside anything that resembles a cavity.

Complaints from homeowners about these birds peak during their nesting season in spring and summer. This is when customers with bird problems will begin hearing noises from inside their home’s ventilation structures. In most cases, these noises are a family of starlings, who have decided to take up residence. Openings used to exhaust kitchen and bathroom fans, as well as clothing dryer vents provide ideal nesting locations. These vents measure 3-4 inches in diameter and are found on a home’s exterior wall, providing an ideal substitute for a tree hollow. Vent structure openings are typically capped with plastic or aluminum covers to prevent drafts. Unfortunately, these covers are little more than flaps or louvers that open readily to allow air to escape and are easily manipulated by clever starlings.

Once inside, male starlings will begin constructing nests to attract a mate. Starling nests consist of twigs, leaves and dry grass as well as suitable man-made materials. There are a number of ways in which homeowners become aware of a bird problem. Sights, sounds and smells provide certain giveaways.  Unlike robins that construct their nests in a neat bowl-like shape, starlings will stuff and cram as much nesting material as possible into vents. Starlings deliver nesting material to the vent continuously throughout the day and are often spotted by homeowners as they come and go. Birds are also extremely messy and will leave droppings behind wherever they go. A vent or exterior wall stained with bird droppings is also a telltale sign that starlings are making themselves at home in your home. Urine and feces inside the vent can produce an intense odour throughout a home. Finally, mother starlings lay between 4 and 6 eggs twice each year, once in early spring and another in early summer. Once eggs hatch, things tend to get very noisy as babies begin to chirp, cry and move around.

If you are experiencing a problem with birds inside your vents, be sure to call Skedaddle. Our trained technicians will humanely remove the birds and their messy nest, as well as protect your home against re-entry. Call the professionals today and prevent and further damage to your home – 1-888-592-0387.

How to remove birds from a vent?

Starlings build extremely messy nests comprised of dried leaves, grass and twigs. When disturbed, these nests produce large amounts of airborne dust and debris that are easily inhaled. When mixed with droppings, this can result in a very unhealthy situation. Starlings are also carriers of bird mites, a parasite that feeds on the blood of birds. Densely packed nests present an ideal environment for mites to thrive. When removing a nest, mites will scatter and attach themselves to humans. For these reasons, personal protective equipment should always be worn when dealing with starlings.

Great care should always be taken when removing a family of starlings from a vent. For protection from predators, starlings general select nesting sites that are above 7 feet in height. This means that accessing the nest and removing the babies requires working from a ladder.  Skedaddle’s technicians are trained in ladder safety to prevent any falls or injuries. We can safely reach any height to help you solve your bird problem.

Once you have reached the outside vent cover, you will need to gain access to the pipe in behind. Always be careful when approaching a starling nest as they will often dart out from the vent unexpectedly, potentially causing you to lose your grip or balance on the ladder. In most cases, access is most easily provided by removing the vent cover entirely. Plastic vent covers easily become brittle from UV exposure. In most instances the vent cover cannot be removed without damage and a replacement must be installed afterward.

Adult starlings will often exit a vent system under their own power with a bit of noise and probing. Once the adults are out, it is important to determine if there are babies inside the vent. Baby starlings do not leave the nest for several weeks after birth and are reliant on their parents for food and nourishment. Babies can only be removed through hands-on techniques. It is critical that all birds are removed before securing the vent cover. Birds locked inside your vent will die, resulting in bad odour, maggots and flies.

Determining the presence of babies can be difficult as your ability to see and hear will be reduced by nesting material. Special tools and equipment are often required to access the nest and any babies inside. Every bathroom, kitchen and dryer vent system is different depending on the home’s layout and construction. The length and shape of the vent system can vary significantly from house to house. In some cases the distance between the bathroom fan and the exhaust on the exterior of the home can measure more than 20 feet in length and include multiple bends and angles. Others are far simpler. Materials can also differ; duct tubes can be made from either solid aluminum or flexible accordion-like plastic. A family of starlings can easily damage and break through plastic vent tubes allowing them accessing into your attic or walls and complicating matters considerably.

Skedaddle employs hands-on techniques to humanely remove the nest and the babies inside. Once the babies have been retrieved, they are placed inside a protective container with some of the nesting material we have collected from the vent. Our technicians then secure that container to the exterior of your home nearest opening. This allows the starling parents to easily locate their babies and continue to feed them until they are ready to fly on their own. To prevent future re-entry, our technicians secure the vent cover with a heavy gauge screening that keeps birds out but also allows the vent to function as it should.

Dealing with birds is messy business. Skedaddle suggests you leave the starlings to us. Call us to find out how we can remove starlings from your stove, bathroom or dryer vent! 1-888-592-0387