This City is Pigeon Proof!

The Big Apple’s best-kept secret.

Angel of the Waters Fountain (Bethesda Angel) in Central Park, New York City.

(Ksenia Ragozina /

New York is rife with old world charm, thanks to the many iconic buildings and monuments sprinkled throughout the city.  Great care is taken to preserve these architectural treasures to maintain the character of their original grandeur.

One of the biggest challenges facing these elegant edifices is the continued growth of New York City’s burgeoning pigeon population. The tough old birds love to build their homes along the ornate facades of the buildings, which remind them of the rocky cliffs where they traditionally roosted. 

But where pigeons live, they invariably leave behind a trail of nasty reminders. According to VandacoatingsGuano, a term for bird excrement (in this case, pigeon poop) can cause extensive damage to the building exteriors due to its high acid composition. 

This often unnoticed, but fundamentally important, stage of preservation has been skillfully handled for over 25 years by the New York-based company, Birdmaster. Working with special netting that is carefully crafted to blend seamlessly with the structures, Birdmaster covers areas where the pigeons are most likely to settle. This approach offers a more elegant and humane solution to traditional pigeon-proofing options like spikes or heavier netting options.

Think like a bird
Getting into the birds’ brains is one of the keys to success. After pigeons build and fortify their nests, they habitually return to them. Birdmaster’s strategy is to change these patterns and break the birds’ habits.  

According to the company's website, "Effective Bird Control comes from knowing how birds think. We understand the psychology of birds, which is why our installations have worked in places where feathered pests have remained unmoved by everything from spikes and chemicals to air cannons."

"These birds protect their site, their mission in life is to create poop and babies. We just happen to build these beautiful edifices that look like cliffs,” Birdmaster founder John Pace, told Fast Company, explaining that the ledges adorning the older structures makes them more attractive to the pigeons than the streamlined modern buildings. “They’ll have places where they like to stay warm and dry and out of the wind and the rain. Part of our skill is recognizing those areas and birdproofing them,” Pace added. 

More than meets the eye
Birdmaster's impressive portfolio includes the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, the New York Stock Exchange Building, and the Washington Square Arch.  

The delicate weave of the netting is cleverly designed so that it is almost imperceptible. “If you go to St Patrick’s Cathedral, there’s a big bronze transom arch with a statuary on it and that entire thing is covered with netting, but because your brain isn’t expecting to see it, you don’t see it,” Pace told Fast Company. 

While Birdmaster’s approach has proven highly effective, it is often unpopular among architects who fear that the netting will detract from the external beauty of the landmark buildings. Birdmaster recently took part in an expensive restoration project of the Morgan Library. The architects were hesitant to use netting on this iconic building despite the damaged limestone facade that had suffered from years of guano deposits, but decided to go ahead with Birdmaster, acknowledging the company’s ability to respect the beauty of the structure. 

Pigeon-free into the future
For many buildings, including the iconic Morgan Library, there is hope that in the future, the birds might eventually learn to create their homes elsewhere, breaking their habit of continued roosting. If that were to come to fruition, the netting could be removed without leaving any permanent marks on the structures. 

Birdmaster has successfully created an effective, environmentally-sound solution to pigeon-proofing and their website even boasts that no birds were harmed! Their approach will help to maintain the structural integrity and beauty of New York's well-loved buildings for generations to come.

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