5 Things To Know About Birds In Vents

What kind of birds nest in vents?

While almost any species of small bird could enter your vent, it is the European Starling that is the common culprit.  It is common for birds to enter vents and even nest is in bathroom and dryer vents.  Nesting is more common in bathroom vents than dryer vents due to the high air pressure the dryer produces.  If you find birds nesting in a dryer vent it should be considered a fire hazard and addressed immediately.  If the flapper / vent door is missing other bird species are more likely to enter such as bluebirds.  If the vent flap is present the culprit is most likely the European Starling.  The European Starling is capable of opening the flap to enter the vent duct.  Nine times out of ten if you are dealing with birds in a bathroom vent it is the European Starling.

Will a bird in the vent do damage?

Birds in bathroom vents is most common and can damage the duct and your bathroom fan.  The bathroom vent duct is typically either a 3” or 4” foil duct. The foil ducts are prone to break open as the nests get packed tight.  If the birds nest is large if can restrict airflow from the vent and cause your fan to overwork and can burn out if the nest / blockage is not removed.

It is important to also note bird droppings are very acidic and if left on siding or if build ups are allowed, they could cause staining or deterioration of the material they are on.

What risks come from birds in a vent duct?

Fire Hazards – If birds are nesting in your dryer vent it should be considered a fire hazard and dealt with immediately.  No guard with mesh should be installed over your dryer vent due lint build up that can be a fire hazard.  Special bird proof dryer vents should be installed.  Thousands of house fires each year are caused by buildups in dryers each year so it is important to prevent yourself from being one of them.

Health Risk – Birds can carry numerous different types of harmful pathogens.  Some are well known, such as salmonella, and others are not.  Some are a risk if particles or spores of breathed in while some pathogens need to be ingested.  If removing nesting materials or cleaning contaminated areas PPE should be used.

Pest Risk (Infestation) – Birds can carry mites.  Bird mites can spread out from the nest and even come into the home. While humans are not considered a suitable host for birds mites they can bite you and cause irritation as they crawl on you.  If you have an issue with bird mites a licensed pest control company can treat for mites to help solve the problem once the bird problem is dealt with.

What to do if you have birds in your vents?

If you find birds in your vents it is important to first determine what bird species you are dealing with.  To figure out what bird species you are dealing with you can use a field guide to birds or you can use a phone app such as Audubon Bird Guide app.  Once you identify what kind of bird you are dealing with you can determine if there are any restrictions on how to handle that bird species.  Songbirds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  Some species such as the European Starling are considered invasive and are not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 

After you have determined what species of bird you are dealing with and any restrictions you will want to determine what is in the duct.  Using a light and a mirror or your cell phone camera look into the vent to determine if the birds have started nesting.  If nesting has begun, it is important to determine how far along into the nesting activity you are.  Is it the start of nest?  Is it an established nest with eggs?  Are there juvenile birds in the nest?  Do the juveniles have feathers?

Once you have those questions answered you will have to come up with a plan.  If it is early into the nesting activity and no eggs or juveniles are present, you can remove the nesting material and either replace the vent with a bird proof vent or install a guard over the vent.  If eggs or juveniles are present and it is not a protected species, you can remove the eggs and/or juveniles.  If you are going to remove any eggs or juvenile birds, we recommend first contacting a local wildlife rehabber and see if they will take the birds from you.  You can also opt to wait until the birds complete their nesting activity and remove the nesting and secure the vent after they leave.  If you can we recommend you replace the duct to get all the nesting and contaminated materials out.  If you are unsure or uncomfortable about any of the process, please contact a professional wildlife removal or bird control company.

How to prevent birds nesting in your vent?

Prevention is always the best medicine.  If you have never had birds in your vents, there are things you can do to protect yourself from ever having this problem. If you have dealt with birds in one of your vents and not protected the others the odds are you are likely going to have bird issues in your other vents at some point.  Ensuring you have bird proof vents or guards installed will keep you from having this problem.  You should also inspect your vents and guards regularly.  Plastic vents and plastic guards can become brittle from the sun and deteriorate over time.  Heavy gauge metal bird proof vents or guards will last for many years over the plastic versions.  If you are unsure where to start or have vents that are hard to access, please contact a professional wildlife removal company.  A quality wildlife removal company has the training to know how to deal with your issue and the equipment to get it done safely.

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