By Ian Rowsby
For golfers, getting a birdie in the rough requires a lot of patience and technique. It can be just as difficult for lawn management professionals to maintain the greens while preventing birds from nesting near ponds and other areas along the course.
Bird droppings and feathers can transmit more than 60 diseases, including salmonella, E. coli, and fungal infections. Birds can also host other pests, which makes infestation easier in and around nesting areas.
A variety of birds can be found on or near golf courses, each of which may require different treatment plans. Three common types of golf enthusiast are Canadian geese, seagulls, and woodpeckers. Here are a few tips on how to manage each of them.
A golf course is considered prime property for Canadian geese. These birds love to gather in open spaces, feed in deep grass and nest in low sloping pond banks. Once these birds find a suitable nesting site, they will likely return year after year, so it is important to scare them off as soon as possible.
Droppings left by geese can cause a number of problems, including water pollution, overfertilization of vegetation areas, and risks of slipping and falling. These birds are also known to be aggressive, especially in their mating and nesting season from February to May.
Consider building hedges around ponds to deter geese from landing or nesting along the coast. Water hazards with steeper banks also make it difficult for geese to access these areas. Keep the grass long, between 6 and 8 inches high, to prevent grazing. Consult bird management experts about the feasibility of lawn treatments, behavior changes, or the implementation of deterrent barrier systems.
Seagulls look for sources of water near low-lying and shallow areas to feed and graze. Much like geese, gulls protect their young, also known as gull chicks, and will bomb jump and become aggressive towards passers-by if they feel threatened.
Seagulls can cause foraging problems all year round, with the summer months bringing increased activity. This is when they mate and raise their young. Lawn and space managers may notice more divots and grooves along the greens as seagulls look for more food to feed their young.
To keep seagulls out of the greens and other populated areas, limit the food allowed on the site. Place signs discouraging feeding birds and promoting the proper disposal of unwanted food and waste in designated closed containers. Lawn sprays and treatments can also be given. It is recommended that sprays be given immediately after cutting the grass and reapplied after every one or two cuts.
Woodpeckers get their name from their feeding habits of routinely pecking for wood for food, shelter, establish territory, and attract mates. Depending on the species, it is estimated that most woodpeckers can tap 8,000 to 12,000 times a day. Unlike geese and seagulls, woodpeckers are unlikely to damage the lawn, but they can be extremely damaging to building structures and trees that line the property. Their loud drilling can also make them quite disruptive for golfers who want to focus and for local residents who live behind the course.
A secondary threat related to woodpeckers is the potential for pest infestation that forms in the burrows they create. When pest problems develop, take care of the bird problems first, and then manage the pests.
Lawn managers should follow a proactive woodpecker treatment plan. Each beak peck not only leads to more property damage, but is also a reputation strategy to attract other woodpeckers nearby. In addition to professional proactive treatment plans, lawn managers can keep the greens and property line free of dead or dying trees to avoid additional noise and secondary pest infestations.
Many species of birds, including Canadian geese, gulls, and woodpeckers, are federally protected, which places restrictions on how and when lawn managers can implement treatment plans. To avoid potential fines and reputational setbacks, work with a trusted bird management expert on an integrated bird management solution that is environmentally sound and tailored to the unique needs of the course.
Ian Rowsby is the Bird Sales Director at Rentokil North America.