Article shared from: PCT Magazine
Features – Bird Control
Bird-B-Gone Ornithologist Rob Fergus has spent a lifetime understanding our “feathered friends” and he’s more than happy to share his insights with the industry.
PCT Magazine | April 30, 2012 |
Editor’s Note: Bobby Corrigan is considered the industry’s foremost “rodentologist” but when it comes to understanding the biology and behavior of birds that honor may go to Dr. Rob Fergus, an ornithologist with Bird-B-Gone, Mission Viejo, Calif. PCT magazine recently interviewed Fergus, who has a Ph.D. in urban bird conservation from the University of Texas, about the challenges of managing bird populations in urban settings, as well as the science of ornithology.
In layman’s terms, how would you describe what an ornithologist does on a daily basis?
A. An ornithologist is anyone who is involved with the scientific study of birds, which can cover anything from their DNA, anatomy and behavior to their ecology and distribution. Some ornithologists study birds or their genes in a lab, while others study free-flying birds in the wild. Academic ornithologists also spend a lot of time teaching university courses on birds, biology or ecology. Most of us do a little of all of this, so on any given day I will be out in the field observing bird behavior, corresponding with other researchers, as well as preparing or teaching university courses. My work with Bird-B-Gone involves field work studying nuisance bird behavior, as well as researching potential bird control solutions, and consulting on commercial and residential bird nuisance problems across the United States and around the world.
How did you first become interested in birds?
A. I always loved animals as a kid growing up in (western) Oregon. In middle school, one of my science teachers took a group of us on a week-long bird watching trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on the other side of the state. This opened up a whole new world to me and I was hooked! I started searching out and learning about all the birds in my area, and while most people are content to keep something like this as a hobby, after college I decided to follow my bliss and make it my profession.
Where are the centers of excellence for ornithology in North America?
A. Most ornithologists teach at universities scattered across the country, and there may be just one or two at any given university. Cornell has brought dozens of ornithologists together in their Lab of Ornithology, making it unique. Many other ornithologists work in private industry, especially in environmental consulting firms reviewing new wind energy projects, other developments, and bird hazard situations including airports.
Why did you decide to join Bird-B-Gone?
A. When I started working with Bird-B-Gone, I had already spent over 15 years studying urban birds and working with bird conservation non-profits. Working with a leading bird control company is an exciting way for me to continue addressing the many human/bird conflicts that come up in our modern technological society.
How have you applied your knowledge/skills for the benefit of PMPs offering bird control services?
A. I spent most of my life studying birds, so I often know how specific birds think and respond to their environment. No two birds and no two bird control situations are going to be the same, but my experience and insights usually allow me to determine what factors are contributing to any given human/bird conflict and what can be done to resolve it. Through the “Ask an Expert” feature on the Bird-B-Gone website I’m available to consult on any given bird problem and have provided guidance and assistance to PMPs as well as private citizens all over the world.
What factors are driving the growth of the bird control market in North America?
A. There are two questions here. What factors are leading people to have conflicts with birds, and what factors are leading those people to become consumers of bird control products? Human/bird conflicts are increasing because of demographic, economic and cultural factors — there are more people all the time, and as our societies become more urbanized, we create urban habitats where pest birds thrive, and people become less tolerant of birds and especially their droppings. Whereas in the past, a farmer or someone with a bird problem might just resort to waging an armed battle with the offending birds, urbanites in modern societies do not usually have that option. The threat of bird-related diseases is getting a lot of press lately and that will certainly contribute to an increase in bird work. There are more than 60 known diseases carried by birds and customers want to take preventive action. This is leading to more bird jobs, especially in places like hospitals and offices where health is a top priority.
What are the most common mistakes PMPs make when entering the bird control market?
A. There is no such thing as a generic bird. Each species of bird has its unique habits and biology, a unique way of interacting with its environment. That means there can be no one-size-fits-all solutions and often no simple once-and-for-all-time solutions either. PMPs aren’t like plumbers who can go out and just apply a technical fix to a problem. They are in the education and service industry that requires great people and educational skills, and not just technical proficiency. Since it often takes time and ongoing efforts to solve a bird conflict issue, PMPs need to develop relationships with their customers so that they can work together on an ongoing basis to solve their bird conflicts. That said, misunderstandings or lack of information frequently lead to overestimating or underestimating job bids. If there is any question at all, PMPs would be advised to reach out for help from researchers or product specialists, such as Bird-B-Gone. One final mistake —sometimes new PMPs take on big jobs before they have a lot of experience, so they should make sure not to bite off more than they can chew.