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Bird Poop Poll

By Tom Neale, 2/17/2011


Tom Neale's logs have a new name and home on BoatUS Magazine. We know Tom has a loyal and devoted readership, so we wanted to share his tips and insights with an even bigger audience! For the latest articles, click here for Onboard With Tom Neale.

I’m sitting here listening to the pitter patter on my deck and wondering which kind of bird is doing it. In earlier days I’d be running up the companionway to bang on the

Look Out Below
rigging and yell obscenities. Then I’d see what type was flying away (if they bothered to do that). But today, I’m feeling, what’s the point? They’ll just come back in a few minutes anyway. Besides my wife will run up and bang on the rigging. She won’t yell obscenities but she’ll yell, “GET. GET.” and that seems to work almost as well.

So I’m sitting here instead and trying to decide which type of bird poop I hate the most. Now, you may have your opinion on this subject, and I do respect your opinion, but here’s mine. I hate it all the most. This is true even though I realize that different types of bird poop have different qualities that make them more deserving that others of my hate.

Take seagull stuff, for instance. Probably it’s least desirable quality is that there’s so much of it. All the time. Everywhere. There are millions of them out there; or I should say “up there” over my boat. Numerous times I’ve even been miles and miles out in the ocean, thinking I was safe, to be found by a bombing seagull and watch the white splatter hit my dodger. But, at least usually you only get one or two sea gulls at a time, and there’s some advantage to this.

So, take the grackle, for another example. (Please take the grackle—all of them.) You can find out some really interesting stuff about them at
That authority says they live year around in the east and southeast and Gulf areas of the US. Actually, they live year around in most of the US but the only thing I care about is that they live year round where I do my US boating. Their amazing grace is that they land on my boat by the thousands. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I’ve seen so many up in my rigging that I couldn’t begin to count them, even if I wanted to. And they rain down grackle poop like rain in a hurricane. You’d think they’d offer droppings a little less offensive considering the fact that they gang up on you as they do, but, birds don’t seem to cut any slack at all when it comes to messing up boats.

And then there’s the noble Osprey. I remember many years ago when the EPA or somebody was telling us that they were becoming extinct. Boy was that a cause for celebration, I thought with selfish glee. But they were also telling us we had to not let that happen. For whatever cause, there are so many Ospreys flying around now (when they’re not sitting on my mast) that I can’t imagine their ever being endangered. I remember hearing of one poor boater who woke up one spring to see his boat covered not only by Osprey poop but by an Osprey nest full of eggs. Being a dutiful do-gooder, he called local environmental authorities to find out the best way to safely remove the mess so he could use his very expensive boat without disturbing the birdies. They told him in no uncertain terms that there was no such way and that he couldn’t move or use his boat until the eggs had hatched and the babies had flown away looking for other boats. They further told him of lots of harsh penalties to be imposed by the law if he didn’t take them seriously. The guy, for his wonderful intentions, was out of boating for most of the summer, and by then he’d lost his appetite for it because of the inches of crud covering the boat. Not to stray too far from our point, the poop of an Osprey is particularly fowl, rather large, and often contains undigested fish particles. Couple that with the fact that they often break whatever they’re sitting on at the top of the mast, they’re coming close to the top of my most hated list. I recently lost a $250.00 TV antenna up the backside of an Osprey. At least I think that’s where it went. It was there on the top of the mast before the Osprey sat on it.

And then there’s the noble Pelican with his massive mouth capable of scooping up all sorts of good fishie food for his digestion. Let’s be fair. One good thing I can say about the pelican is that he seldom sits on top of my mast. So when the opposite end of his mouth opens up to disgorge, it doesn’t do as much damage as it could. The pelican usually sits on my bow pulpit, or stern pulpit, or hatch, or dinghy, or survival raft, or—well this list could go on forever. But the thing is that these are all fairly close to deck level so that large amount of pelican poo doesn’t splatter so widely when it hits said deck.

Then there are all the many birds that use my boat for a john, with whose identity I’m not familiar. Once we were half way between the Bahamas and the Florida coast, and a very tiny little guy landed on the forward deck. He was clearly a land bird and clearly out of his league, that far away from any land. Unperturbed, he took his relief and took off, not giving us enough time to look him up in the “Chez Nous” bird book. Another time we were anchored in the Tred Avon River off the Chesapeake Bay and all of a sudden our entire boat shook, from the mast down to the keel. Whatever was shaking it was on top of the mast. I stupidly rushed on deck and looked up and saw a massive form up there and then the mighty flapping of some very large wings as he flew away on his own volition. I never knew what it was. It was far too big to be an Osprey. Pterodactyl maybe. Never mind the fact that he could have sunk my boat, I think he was a very nice bird, because even though I was standing under him with my mouth wide open in amazement, he abstained from what would have been a bowel movement of major crises proportions.

I could go on relating with these experiences for a long time. It beats going up there on deck and slipping in something. But I’ve had enough and I’m sure you have too. It’s time to be more selective in my judgment than I was at the beginning and decide which is my least liked feathered friend.

I think it’s the noble Osprey. All the others just mess up my boat. He’s the only one that can actually keep me from boating for most of a season.

Tom’s Tips About Bird Watching

1. Bird poop that is left to dry on Lexan windows or hatches can produce patches of surface crazing underneath. While these patches on our boats never cracked completely through, they were unsightly.

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