If Bird Brains are so Tiny, Then Why is it that We Humans Have So Much Trouble Outwitting Them? Seaworthy Readers Fight Back!

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I am happy to share our idea with your readers. We have a 34-ft. Peaquod-sport fisherman! We moor our boat in the West Harbor off Marblehead, MA. We have been there for over twenty years…without a problem from the "birds." Our idea-borrowed from a used car lot-red, silver, and blue or just shiny blue streamers tied from the bridge to the bow of the boat-make sure they fly free and the seagulls won't come near enough to land. They are simple to use and last approximately two years…for about twenty dollars for 40 feet. They are attached to a line for tying-so easy! We wouldn't use anything else. And would never forget to use them. Can be purchased from: Jaguar, Graphics and Print, 26 Howley St. Peabody, MA 01960; 800-545-2723 or 978-977-4936.


In response to your informative article on the damage that Sea Gulls and other birds can inflict upon waterfront property, I can relate a true story of my problem nearly fourteen years ago.

I built a 150-ft pier in front of a waterfront property that I newly purchased in 1988. It was a disaster from the standpoint of having to scrub the mess off of the pier daily. Each time that they would land to make a mess I noticed that a lookout always sat on a higher perch than the deck surface. So, I took a number of wire coat hangers and twisted the top end into a loop small enough that only a roofing nail would go through. On the side of each piling near the top I attached the coat hanger so that it would extend above the piling. Then I bent the coat hanger mid way up so that it was on an angle over the top of the piling. It was the most comical thing that I have ever seen when the gulls came in to land and had to put it into reverse. They have never returned to my pier during these many years even though they are still nearby and fly right by the end of the pier.

Since adding a boatlift I ran a wooden strip along the length away from the pier side and nailed coat hangers on it as described above. It is rare that my boat is struck, even though it is in the lift both summer and winter, uncovered. At first I tried mounting an Owl at a high point, but that did not help.

The pier is located on Nomini Creek, below Montross, VA.


I am writing this in response to your January back cover "Jonathan Livingston Strikes Back."

While I realize that this is an expensive and annoying problem, I have not had the displeasure of having to deal with the damage to boats caused by feathered fowl.

Some however, may find the following amusing:

A year ago, this coming spring, my friend, Jim and his wife bought a new 16' boat.

He's dying to get out on the water and the weather is perfect. So, I suggest an overnight camping trip to one of our local spoil islands. Hey, two boats, two tents, and four people; what could go wrong? (You should never ask this question.)

After setting up camp in an idyllic spot, we sat on the island's beach to watch the sunset. As the sun does its finale, there is a sudden quiet. Jim starts to get up to get a beer.

Then in a matter of seconds, we were inundated, no, more precisely, we were "hosed from above" with something that resembled heavy cream with black curds!

We were directly below what had become a nighttime roosting area for every single pelican, egret, and just about everything else that flies along the Florida coast. And they had been holding out for quite some time!

While the ladies, boats, and tents remained unscathed, Jim and I were running for the water. Each of us became very intimate with our boats' scrub brush. The only hint (clever or not) that I can offer is this: Whatever your whereabouts, whether sitting or standing, laughing or otherwise; "Do not" look up and yell: "Oh My Gosh!" Because without a doubt, and Jim and I are both agreed, "It" doesn't taste like fish!


I found that running unsheathed copper wire, in places that birds like to perch, does wonders for discouraging them.

1. From a point about 5-6 inches up the mast from the spreaders to the tips of the spreaders.

2. If you have a masthead wind meter or wind direction indicator, place stiff wires upright where you can and run the copper wire along the tips…sorta' like little telephone poles and lines.

3. Run another copper wire from mast to end of boom, just above sail or sail cover.

This requires removing it when hoisting sail but if birds on sail or covers are a real problem, it is worth the effort.

Works for me.


I read with a chuckle and interest your article regarding David Ledley's poop problem. Bird poop that is.

It was by accident I discovered my $2.50 rubber snake kept many a bird away. They measure approx. 1" x 4" long. Big enough to intimidate any bird, I guess.

I had just purchased my 38' Bayliner "Hydra" in February of 2000. In Greek mythology Hydra was a sea serpent (to simplify it). On the back of the boat a snake was painted on the "H" of "Hydra."

On one of my many road trips back and forth to Florida, via I-95, and tempted by numerous billboards, I stopped "South of the Border." (Pedro says you never sausage a place!) I was disappointed to see this was nothing more than a tourist trap selling cheap little souvenirs (to put it politely). Oh, did I mention, they sell rubber snakes- Cheap!!

I purchased several thinking how cute and clever they would look on "Hydra." I then strategically placed the rubber snakes on the bridge, bow, railings, etc. It didn't take long to notice how clean "Hydra" was compared to every other boat at the marina.

Here's hoping that David doesn't have a snake phobia…


The combo package: String a piece of monofiliment line between the mast and backstay above the boom-birds hit it and fly off; appropriately placed feather dusters; old CD's suspended from monofiliment line; and an owl suspended so that it swings (or it won't work).


When I had my Morgan 30 I found that hoisting a plastic owl markedly reduced the desire of gull's to use my deck, etc, as a latrine.


Cover the whole boat with a large tie-down sheet. What they are made of, I do not know. How about that spray on stuff they use to mothball airplanes? Maybe they still use it.

I don't get around much anymore but I do a lot of reading. I really enjoy Seaworthy.


Possible tactics to deter birds and ducks from spreaders, docks and decks: wind chime, small windsock or a slingshot and some pebbles or pellets.


After many trials- owls & no or limited success, a friend who has pet snakes gave me a very life-like 4' rubber snake. I keep him coiled on my bow-no more birds.


I read with great interest your article on the back of the Jan. 2002 issue of Seaworthy, Claim #9709522.

I had the same experience on my 32' Wellcraft St. Tropez. My boat has a radar arch and a VHF and another antenna on either side of this arch. I took some nylon string and tied it to the tops of each antenna. I then took some 1/8" stainless welding rods and took the flux off of them. I made "S" shaped clips with the stainless rods and put them on each side of the bow rail up at the bow and had 2 more strings running crisscross (from port to starboard & starboard to port) up to the same clips on the bow rail. When going under a bridge you can quickly unsnap the strings and clips from the bow rail, lower the antennas and go under the bridge. Also as an extra precaution get some aluminum pie pans, and position them strategically on some stainless clips also. I no longer have a problem with birds. I can sit here in my house and watch the herons, geese, and seagulls try to land and my strings interrupt their flight path. Also the slightest breeze will make the pie pans move erratically and scare them away. Also nail some 16-penny nails on top of any pilings so they will not roost on them and get ideas to go on your boat. Hope this helps. By the way, what do you use to get those droppings off a bimini top?


After many trials with owls and no or limited success, a friend who has a pet snake gave me a very life-like, four-foot rubber snake. I keep him coiled on my bow-no more birdies.


When I had my Morgon 30, I found that hoisting a plastic owl marked by reduced the desire of gulls to use my deck as a latrine.


I've been experiencing excellent results with a reflective owl, suspended between fishing swivels and hoisted just above the masthead. (See photo) The owl has a "holographic" finish and realistic eyes on both sides. It's also reasonably durable and quite stowable. You are welcome to use this information including photos, in your April article.

Also, FYI, I've decided to offer the reflective owl via mail order and will run classified "Flotsam & Jetsam" ads in the March and May issues of BoatU.S. Magazine, including website ads. The reflective owl will be provided without a support device but with instructions for "deployment" on power and sailboats.

Thanks for the great articles.


Ways to keep bird poop off-

  • 1. A line with hanging flags or streamers (common in San Diego clip on and off)
  • 2. Keep a kitty on board or dog
  • 3. Fake owls seem to work too.
  • 4. Put pressure sensitive electric mat switch (Radio Shack)
  • For larger birds-bird lands- siren goes off (also prevents boarding of thieves)
  • 5. Put plastic cover on dinghy and food on cover.

Here's a system I found that seems to outwit the feathered air force that hovers over most mooring areas. The enclosed sketch shows details on my rig for my 40-ft. Bristol, Santana. I stretch a length of red sail ties over the boom and tension it to ride about three inches above the cover. The 18-ft. line hums like a well-tuned cello in a decent wind while preventing the birds from alighting on the cover. As in any such arrangement, protect against chafe.

It also seems to keep them off the top of the dodger. After an early season air raid, I installed this system and had no trouble thereafter. If I were leaving the boat for an extended period, I'd string red line over the pedestal area. If it's a nuisance factor to "the critters" they tend to stay away from the boat altogether, dropping clams from their bow and other stuff from their stern on more vulnerable unprotected craft.

Worth a try.


I certainly am able to sympathize with the boat owner who had his vessel "painted" by the local flying fauna. Makes us glad elephants can't fly, eh?

In July and August of 2000 all of the sailboats in our Caseville, Michigan marina were visited by a little brown bird of the cedar waxwing variety. This little fellow dines on a variety of ripe berries and fruits in the area. It is their habit to then fly to a nearby slender object, perch there and lower their body weight by expelling the results of an hour of dining in the trees. An aft stay or topping lift line is the perfect perch for such activity. They seem to avoid shrouds and roller furling fore stays. The powerboats had no such attractions so the sailboats were dropped on constantly.

They couldn't be frightened off by plastic owls or snakes and an owner would have to constantly be there to chase them away each time they landed.

What did I do? I simply installed a cheap blue plastic tarp boom tent over the boom with split in it to clear the topping lift and extend (nearly) to the back of the boat. I installed a total of ten bungees, four to a side and two aft, to secure the tarp. The tarp covered the fabric stuff; the sail cover, dodger and helm cover. Also the cockpit was covered and the deck up to the mast. A little of the fore deck was splattered but a little bleach solution in a spray bottle with a good stiff brush made short work of those stains.

I reinforced the split with duct tape so the tarp won't tear in the wind. Also the use of bungees from tarp to safety lines allows the tarp to move in the wind and not tear it or stress the safety lines.

I know that many devices and methods are used to clear birds from spreaders. Since this wasn't a problem with the Cedar Waxwings so we didn't address it.

Good luck to your reader with this problem. By the way our boats looked just like the one in the photo in Seaworthy except the droppings were multi-colored with red and purple being the predominant colors.


Just finished your plea for ideas to keep seagulls off our boats. Here is what I would design and make if I had the know-how (or buy if available): a large water squirt gun coupled to a motion detector and a small motor. When it detected motion within, say, 10 feet (not too far or my neighbors will get upset and wet), it would whirl in the appropriate direction and squirt a little water at the offending beast.

Alternatively, and much lower tech, one of my projects is to stick a couple of pieces of thin plastic tubing (1/4" or so), about 3 or 4 feet long) into a block of wood held to the boom, or other strategic place, such as the binnacle. The plastic tubes would gently bend with the wind and, hopefully, keep the little buggers from landing. I'll let you know how it works.


Down river from me the Growes landfill is home to a million or so seagulls. There is a city park and ramp there and pier that the gulls are dying white so the town complained to waste management the operator. They installed a system that is a recording that omits a screech that is at timed intervals and is really not that loud that keeps them away. I don't have any info about the product but it may be a place to start.


When I kept a sailboat in Brixham, England I used to come down on the week-end to find an unholy mess all over the decks. Brixham is a major fishing port in the South West of England, and is a haven for seagulls- which, can you believe, are protected by law!

My neighboring yacht owner told me his solution- it was to take some bright colored string (not rope) and take it once around the boat, outside all the rigging, about 3 to 4 feet above the guardrails. I would also tie a further line from the mast, back to the end of the main boom about one foot above the sail cover. It was tied to fore-stay and backstay and kept under tension. I think it hummed a little in the wind, which acted as a further discouragement! If you have twin back-stays or a split backstay it is easier as the string is kept outboard as far as possible. It is all about experimentation to get it right!

Finally a stick was placed at the masthead (unless you have an antenna there). These simple precautions which took a couple of minutes to do, worked like a charm for English seagulls. If you have a powerboat, which has wide open deck spaces, then you will have your work cut out!


For years I have tied a common grocery store bag to the backstay on my Laguna 30. I place it up high enough so that the wind catches it and that it does not interfere with the boom. Unless there is absolutely no wind it is constantly moving and the seagull, etc., would rather be somewhere else. For some reason I seem to be the only boat in the marina with this system but it works for me. Admittedly it doesn't look too nautical but it does the trick. I only have to replace the bag a few times a year unless we have a storm blow through that takes the bag with it. Thanks for Seaworthy, I get a lot of tips from it.


Where I use to dock my boat had a lot of birds and I put up a plastic owl that I got at BoatU.S. I put it on a post at the dock by my boat. It kept the birds away. The next year I moved my boat but not my owl and oh brother what a mess I had! Thanks very much.


In your January issue of Seaworthy you requested solutions to the problem of bird droppings on boats. We have a 26' sloop and have finally found a fairly successful solution by using netting that we purchased from Home Depot. We tie it taught from the bow to the mast, and in the stern we drape it around like barbed wire. The seagulls seem to dislike having their feet caught in the netting so do not roost where the netting is. They will still occasionally stand on the boom but do not hold parties on the bow and stern as they did before. Setting up the netting is a nuisance, but it beats scrubbing the droppings each time we board the boat.

New York, New York


We own a 27-ft. Ericson, which we keep on a mooring. We have found that the two dirty birds you mentioned in Vol. 20 January issue of Seaworthy do not like to perch on anything that is unstable or obstructed. Here are a few ideas that have worked for us.

Marine supply stores sell stainless spikes that you mount on top of the mast. 2. Two lengths of heavy duty monofilament fishing line attached to the shrouds about nine and eighteen inches above the spreaders and run down to the base of the spreader where it meets the mast. The dirties need an unobstructed area to land and take off, the mono is just enough to keep them off the spreaders. 3. To protect the sail cover and the cockpit we run a 1/4-inch line from the mast to the topping lift or backstay so that it hangs about a foot or so above the sail cover. Attach anything that will flutter in the breeze. This should keep them of the sail cover. Make sure the line is not taught. We use a line with small triangular marine flags attached about every 12 inches. It takes about five minutes to set up compared to the amount of time it takes to clean up after the dirties.

Another idea to keep them off the spreaders is a piece of one-inch PVC long enough to reach the end of your spreaders again attach anything that will flutter, drill a hole in the center thread a line through the hole make two loop ends. Hook your main halyard to a loop and a down haul line to the other hoist it up the mast about a foot above the spreaders and secure the down haul to a cleat on the mast.

I hope these ideas help!!!


I've had years of gulls, crows and others sitting on my boat's spreaders messing the deck, boom cover, and dodger. I placed some heavy fishing line from one shroud to the other about 4-6" above each spreader. Result - no birds. They can't land. They go over to someone else's spreaders. Cheap, renewable and works. (Can you delete this suggestion from any magazines going to owners at Swantown marina, Olympia, WA. If too many boats do this, the birds will land on the Windex instead.)


I Really enjoy reading Seaworthy, it in itself is reason enough to join BoatU.S.

In 1949, the year of my birth, my father bought his first boat. It was not he most worldly vessel ever to set sail on the great Atlantic but it did hail from the seagoing port of Rockport, Ma. Back in those days Rockport was little more of a fishing village then a tourist destination. Dad's boat named the "Little Dipper" hung on a mooring in the inner harbor at Rockport. The fishing and lobster boats would come and go all day long and many gulls where in the wait for something that was discarded overboard as the fisherman cleaned their catch. Now some of this hungry gulls would used the Little Dipper for a picnic table. If they were lucky enough to find a claw from a lobster or a clam they would drop it on deck to break it and then would eat so much that they would burst, all over the deck. My Dad was not know for his patience, so when he came down to the boat and found her covered in fish parts and gull droppings his was not very happy when he had to delay departure for cleanup, he searched for an answer just like you are. It was about this time that some ingenious inventor came up with the two faced owl that was guaranteed to scare away any bird and it did for about two weeks. Dad was delighted and the Little Dipper didn't need to be dipped before she put to sea. About two weeks after the owl was placed on board the gulls must have felt sorry for that poor bird that had two mouths to feed and never left to feed them and decided to feed it! My dad went down to his beloved Little Dipper and the gulls had done double duty trying to make up for lost time because the decks were just solid with anything the gulls could hit the deck with. Even the owl was covered. Dad then moved the boat to Pigeon Cove where it was out of the way of the fishing fleet and had very little trouble. I guess the moral of this story is: Be careful what you use to fool the foul.

Good Luck and Good Boating,


We have a six-foot look alike black snake purchased at Disney World's Adventure Land that has a permanent home on the deck of Avventura III, a Beneteau 461 with the homeport Annapolis, Maryland. It really works!

P.S. The same method keeps birds away from water gardens and loss of fish.


After reading your article on "Jonathan Livington Strikes Back" I thought I could provide some useful information on bothersome birds and how to keep them in their own habitat and away from taking "relief" on individuals vessels, docks, etc.

Being an avid boater and seasoned Property Manager of many condominium communities (some communities are situated on small lakes and/or have swimming pools where birds of all types like to flock) the following measures have been taken to curb unwanted birds in an environmentally correct, humane and economical manner.

1. Buy a couple of fake owls and place them on either side of the vessel in a manner that they are visible. Preferable on the mast cover or helm area, where it appears on the subject boat these areas have taking the worst abuse. Owls are predators and many birds stay clear. I have used this tactic at community swimming pools and is sometimes effective.

2. Tie some fish line from bow to stern and cross-cross them across the vessel. Birds do not like to land where there is wire or line. This remedy is usually successful and can be easily set up and removed. This is effective not only for swimming pools but also around small lakes and can be equally effective on boats. 3. If these tactics fail, find a pair of swans, feed them well, and since they are territorial, they will do perform a great job of keeping other birds at bay and away from your boat.

I hope these ideas can aid my boater friends in their quest for sanitation efforts.

Keep up the great articles, I always enjoy your reports.


I have found the following solutions that pretty much have eliminated the problem of bird droppings: On my dock, most of the problem was with ducks. Ducks don't like any obstacles that could block them from flying away in an emergency, so I just strung a rope banister about 30 inches high on one side of my dock. That pretty much took care of the problem for the dock.

My boat is a powerboat, which is stored on a lift and smaller birds liked to sit on top of the windshield. I tied a string to dock posts, a few inches above the windshield. That pretty much took care of that problem.


At the American Yacht Club in Newburyport, MA we are bothered by plovers for at least the month of August. The birds will sit on the bow and stern pulpits, sail cover, and dodger and make a mess. To deter them I use farm netting from the mast aft and use clothespins to fasten the netting to the lifelines. It is important to string a line from the mast to the backstay to keep the netting away from the mainsail cover. I use a piece of plastic fencing, which I tie to the bow pulpit. From the mast forward I leave uncovered and the birds do not bother that area. At the stern I have a hook tied to the swivel on the backstay to which I fasten the netting. I use my loran antenna and a jury-rigged piece of plastic on the other side (it is an old piece of a pick up buoy), fastening the netting to each with clothespins. As long as you keep the netting an inch or two from a landing area the birds will pretty much stay away. I get the farm netting at Agway. Its real purpose is to keep birds from fruit trees and grape arbors. It costs about $15 and takes about an hour to set up initially, and 15 minutes thereafter, but it will save the cost of a slip and will keep the boat pretty clean.


I have lived on my Columbia 43 sailing yacht in San Diego for several years, and like most boaters have tried everything to keep my vessel from being used for target practice by the local birds. We of course have the Jonathan Livingston Seagull family, and in addition we have berry eating and seed dropping black starlings, whose droppings will stain gelcoat.

I like others have tried the West marine owl, rubber snakes, and those balls that look like eyes, as well as anything else I could run up my mast. Then I found the answer in the most unlikely place.

I was visiting a friend in what we call our backcountry, which is a farm and ranch area, and we went into a farm supply store (don't confuse this with a feed store). As you can imagine farmers and food growers deal with keeping birds off their fields and in turn out of their wallets. There in lies the answer.

In talking to several farmers while in the store, I was directed to a product called ''Scary Tape.'' It is simply that, a shiny, cellophane, tape. It comes in a 500-foot roll for about $6. The type I now use is red on one side and silver on the other. I cut it into three to four foot strips, and tape it to a line running down my for-stay and back-stay. I run the ribbons down just past my spreaders.

Even in the lightest of breezes this lightweight ribbon moves constantly. It is not only the movement that keeps the birds off of my boat, but the sound the ribbon makes fluttering in the breeze as well. While it does make a sound in the wind, it soon becomes nothing more then white noise for yourself and you neighbor. While others in the marina are forced to wash their boats daily, or learn to live with a dirty boat, I have No and I do mean No bird droppings on mine. If only I could find a way to keep the aircraft fuel residue off my boat I may never have to wash it at all.

I hope this helps your readers.


Our harbor in Buzzards' Bay, MA has a lovely colony of cormorants. About two years ago, they must have shared information with the precocious cormorant flock in Plymouth, MA, which had long been roosting on sailboat spreaders and mastheads, because they began the unfortunate habit of roosting on our moored boats. Cormorants (and pelicans) not only defecate, they also regurgitate (partially digested eels in our case). It is the regurgitated material, encased in a sticky brown substance that hardens to a resin, that is particularly damaging to fiberglass surfaces (it can dissolve the gel coat).

Here's what you do if your sailboat is plagued by cormorants: Rig a thin wire about 6 to 8 inches above and parallel to the spreaders. It is easy to attach the wire to the shrouds above the spreaders. (A more temporary fix is to use fishing line.) This wire will prevent the cormorants from landing on the spreaders. Boats with unobstructed mastheads will need to rig some spiky object at the top of the mast as well. Boats with masthead wind indicators are safe from cormorants landing there.

As for other bird species, look to see where they land, and then make that site unattractive to them. Scarecrow-type devices rarely work for long. I have a great picture of a cormorant sitting on one of those devises in Plymouth harbor.

Boats that are used often are not likely to be bothered by birds. Neglected boats are favored roosting places.


I had ducks and swans and there mess all over my swim platform. My dingy hinges on the platform. So I now hang a noisy wind chime from the dinghy. It hangs down to a couple inches from the platform. It's working for me.

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