Keeping the birds away with gel

Odorous product being tested in housing estates facing bird menace
SAMANTHA BOH Straits Times 1 Jun 15;

A GEL that deters birds with its smell is the new weapon being tried out against the bird nuisance in two housing estates in the west.

The herb-based product from Japan is being tested in Bukit Batok and Choa Chu Kang by the authorities here.

Along a path in Bukit Batok Avenue 1, containers of the gel have been placed above five lamp posts, which are common roosting places for birds because of their broad and flat tops.

Not too far away, another trial is being conducted at Block 755 in Choa Chu Kang North 5. Rows of containers with the gel line the ledges on the sides of the block.

The trial in Bukit Batok began in December 2013 and the one in Choa Chu Kang started in February. Both are still ongoing.

Residents of the Choa Chu Kang block have endured years of disturbance from flocks of mynahs, said Madam Audrey Hoy, 56, a counsellor. "The droppings were all over, and the birds would fly into my bedroom," she said.

The situation worsens during sunset at about 7pm each day, when the birds fly back to the blocks or neighbouring trees to roost for the night, Madam Hoy said. "Sometimes, I still have clothes out and they fly all over them and soil them."

Another resident, student Nurul Ain Azhar, 23, said it can get quite disgusting as the droppings are splashed all over the walls of the building's facade.

The gel has been used in Japan for more than 10 years and was brought in by KSPA Singapore at the end of 2013.

The product typically takes about a month to become effective, based on current trials, Mr Ignatius Chua, chief operating officer of KSPA Singapore, told The Straits Times.

About 20g of the gel is placed in each of the containers, which are about 20cm apart. They have holes at the bottom to prevent stagnant water from collecting and mosquitoes from breeding.

"The birds will still keep coming back initially because they have the mindset that the place is their roosting space," Mr Chua said. "It is only after a few times that they realise they keep smelling the same odour and decide it is no longer the place to go back to."

He added that the gel does not wash away with water or melt under the sun, and should last for at least three years.

The gel is non-toxic and does not harm the birds, he added.

Besides the gel, other bird-control methods are being tested and reviewed, said a spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which oversees bird-control measures here.

Currently, town councils and the National Parks Board selectively prune trees to temporarily deter birds from roosting. Bird-control companies engaged also use a mix of tools, including spikes, nets and chemical-laced baits.

The National Environment Agency works with cleaning contractors to ensure the timely disposal of food scraps, which may attract birds at food centres and coffee shops. The AVA also clamps down on the feeding of pigeons, which has been banned since 1973. Those caught flouting the rules are fined up to $500.

Meanwhile, residents of Block 755 in Choa Chu Kang said the bird problem has eased somewhat in the last month, but they are unsure if this is because of the gel.

"It has been over two months since the block was painted and the walls still look clean - hardly any droppings," said Ms Nurul.