How to Keep Birds off your Dock & Boat for Good

Birds will forage near boats looking for scraps left by fishers. But their droppings can cause damage to boats and docks. Scaring birds away from your boat and dock is the best solution to keep your equipment in good condition.  

Why are Birds Attracted to Boats or Docks?

Birds are clever — they know that boats sometimes mean food scraps from fishing and other human activity on the water. And seabird movements have even been tied to fishing boat schedules in some areas. 

Active boats offer several advantages to birds. Much the same way human fishers sometimes use birds to spot fishing opportunities, birds use fishing boats to spot opportunities for themselves. 

Problems that Birds can Cause on Boats and Docks

Problems that Birds Can Cause on Boats and Docks

While there exists a certain symbiotic relationship between birds and fisher’s, including the use of birds to help spot shoals of fish and small landmasses at sea, birds can also cause quite a few problems for fishers and their equipment. Here are a few problems they can cause. 

Excessive Damage to Boats and Structures

If allowed to accumulate, bird droppings can cause stains and erode materials on boats and docks. They can cause problems for roofing, especially tar roofing, boat machinery, finishes, and ventilation systems. Damage caused by bird droppings can also affect the weather-proofing on certain materials. 

Bird droppings can also damage anything left on your boat, such as plastic containers, and contaminate food stores.

Birds can also build nests on boats that are left moored or used very little. Nests mean a buildup of nesting materials and droppings which can block drainage systems and ventilation, blocking airflow, water egress, and eventually causing damage.

Nests and built up droppings can eventually cause a roof collapse on some vessels. And because birds are migratory, they can pick up and carry with them different bacteria and chemicals from one place to another in their feces.

Another consequence of bird droppings is “fouling.” The bacteria present in bird feces encourages growth of mold and other organisms which in turn act as a fertilizer for algae, barnacles, and weed growth on a boats hull. This growth can create drag and friction on hulls and propellers, affecting the speed and maneuverability of the boat, as well as safety at sea.

Health Risks and Hazards

Because bird droppings can carry parasites and bacteria that are transmissible to humans, droppings also carry health risks. Bird droppings can also create slip-and-fall hazards, especially when surfaces are already wet.

All told, there are approximately 60 transmissible diseases that are hazardous to humans. When bird droppings dry, disturbing them can cause dust, and bacteria, to become airborne.

Though many of these diseases occur in those who are already immunocompromised, and the really young and really old, they can be severe. Some of the diseases transmitted by bird droppings include histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, salmonellosis, which often occurs as “food poisoning,” and E. coli

Some diseases like histoplasmosis may have no early symptoms, while others like salmonellosis and E. coli are often apparent. Even just cleaning droppings can expose a person to the bacterium that cause these diseases, so take precautions like gloves, masks and frequent handwashing when cleaning up bird droppings.

Ways to Keep Birds off your Dock and Boat

Wax your boat. While waxing won’t stop birds from staying on your deck or boat, this can make some surfaces slippery, which can discourage birds from perching. Wax is also an added protection against erosion from droppings, since it can prevent droppings from seeping into the wood. 

Place a crouching cat on your deck. Cats prey on birds and even a fake cat can discourage birds from coming too close. Purchase a realistic-looking cat, preferably in a crouching position, and place it strategically on your boat. 

Use reflective mirrors. Light from reflective mirrors can deter birds as well. Hang these around the dock and when they swing around or whenever sunlight hits them, they will create a bright reflection that birds avoid. 

Use motion-sensor water guns/blasters. Installing motion-sensor water blasters won’t stop birds from pestering your boat or dock, but it can help drive them away. There are some motion sensors that can detect movement as far as 30 meters away, which means they won’t even have the chance to land before being sprayed. 

Install microfilament strings on your boat mast. Some birds will perch up high, like on top of the mast. Installing microfilament strings will make the space unavailable for perching. You can install the strings in a zigzag pattern to cover more space. 

Use scare tapes. Place scare tapes on the railings, radar, spreaders, and even on the mast. Scare tapes will flap in the air and reflect light, startling birds. In addition to light, they also make a metallic clattering sound that birds avoid. 

Ways to Keep Birds Off Your Dock and Boat

Keep your boat netted or covered. Nets draped over boats can keep birds from perching, but they won’t keep droppings off your boat. For this reason, many people use tarpaulins, since they also provide a barrier against droppings. 

Bring your dog. Having a dog on board can keep birds away while the boat is in use. You can also bring them out to the boat as part of your daily routine during the early morning and evening, which are the peak hours for perching. Don’t worry, the dog won’t hurt or kill the birds — their mere presence is enough to drive the birds away. 

Use a mild zapper. A mild zapper is another tactic that boat owners use to keep birds off their boat and dock. These zappers are usually made of flat strips with conductors that deliver a low-voltage shock when touched.

They won’t hurt or kill birds but they definitely send a message. Place these zappers on the spreaders, beam, roof, and anywhere birds are likely to perch. There are zapper brands that come with a rechargeable power source and are designed to suit any weather. 

Install an ultrasonic device. Ultrasonic devices emit sounds that drive birds and other critters away. Some brands can be preprogrammed to a particular sound, like that of a distressed seagull. 

Why Are Birds Attracted to Boats or Docks?

Install bird spikes. Bird spikes are a humane and effective method for preventing perching. You can install bird spikes all around your boat and on any surface without leaving gaps or openings. And because many are made of stainless steel, they’re UV and corrosion-resistant as well as fireproof. 

Remove food sources. Leaving food sources out, like trash cans or pet food, can keep birds interested in your boat. Cover trash cans, keep pet food picked up, and avoid feeding birds fishing scraps or other food. 

Use repellents. Pick a biodegradable and nontoxic product for your boat and dock — the goal should be to repel, not kill the birds or harm the environment. Options include liquid bird repellents, sprays, and even gels and pastes. Spray or apply them on the railings, deck, and other surfaces most frequented by birds.  

How do you Clean after Birds?

Cleaning bird droppings off of boats and docks requires certain products to safely clean up and protect surfaces from damage at the same time. Many dropping removers or cleaners are nontoxic and biodegradable, making them harmless to humans and other animals.

These removers effectively and safely dissolve bird droppings on wood, plastic, fiberglass, metal, glass, and other surfaces. In addition to cleaning, you can use a deodorizer to get rid of any foul smells caused by bird droppings. Most can be sprayed on fabrics as well as hard surfaces. 

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