How do I get these mourning dove squatters off my air conditioner?
March 31, 2009 12:18 PM   Subscribe

This weekend I learned that two mourning doves are building or have built a nest on top of my master bedroom air conditioner (the only air conditioner in the house). This is not a good situation, as we will need to run the a/c come summer, and I do not want the blood of baby doves on my hands. What can I do?

I only noticed the doves this weekend, fluttering around the window, coo-ing, doing all that stuff that doves tend to do. It didn't occur to me that the scritching that kept waking me up all morning Saturday and Sunday was NOT my cats being mischievous, but rather doves building a nest on my air conditioner. I am a deep sleeper and I'm used to tuning out noises due to the aforementioned mischievous cats, so this could have been going on for awhile.

If they are just starting to build their nest, I think my best course of action is to destroy it and turn the a/c's fan on so that they are discouraged from rebuilding it in that location. However, I can't see the nest to determine whether they have built the nest yet or whether they have laid eggs yet. There's no way for me to get a good look, either.

What I can tell is that one dove flew away when I tapped on the inside of the a/c, while another nervously peeked out from on top. Does that mean they have already laid eggs?

Other info that may help:
  • This is in a woody area of southern New Hampshire.
  • The air conditioner is an in-wall room unit that wasn't covered over the winter.
  • Birds really like to make their home in my house. We had a woodpecker in the siding last year.
What should I do? How can I get rid of them? Short of letting my cats out, how can I let birds know "you can hang out in the yard & live in the trees, but please lay off the air conditioner, siding, and attic, please!"?

I would prefer not to have the blood of baby doves on my hands if at all possible.
posted by tastybrains to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
I'm not sure you have anything to worry about. The birds I've noticed around my property seem to hatch, grow up and leave pretty quickly. Won't it be a few months before you need the AC?

According to this page, mourning doves hatch in just over 2 weeks, and leave the nest 2-4 weeks after hatching.
posted by jon1270 at 12:30 PM on March 31, 2009

Last week someone in the same situation as you posted a question and got some good answers.
posted by zsazsa at 12:32 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: zsazsa - I read that question but it's sort of not the same situation as I want these birds gone. I don't care about bothering them, I just don't want to kill them.

I can see us needing the A/C as early as late-May, and from what I've read, mourning doves will have a few clutches of eggs per year, so they might not vacate all summer long.
posted by tastybrains at 12:44 PM on March 31, 2009

How are they impeding the operation of the airconditioner by being on top of it? Doesn't it vent though the side/end? Just use it as you will, they can leave if it bothers them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:51 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

This blog might help.
posted by watercarrier at 12:56 PM on March 31, 2009

Turn it on and scare them with the noise. Better to do this before they get too settled on the nest.
posted by Solomon at 1:01 PM on March 31, 2009

Best answer: StickyCarpet - I took the "just let them be" route once with pigeons. Bad idea. One of the adolescent pigeons died when I was away for a few days. By the time I got back the horseflies that grew in the carcass had made their way into my apartment through the A/C's intakes. Not cool at all. I would imagine that this is a risk with any kind of nest.
posted by NormieP at 1:07 PM on March 31, 2009

You need to find some way to get a look in the nest. If there are no eggs - simply destroy the nest and keep the fan on so they don't rebuild in the same spot. If there are eggs...well, only you can decide how comfortable you are with destroying the nest at that point.
posted by COD at 1:20 PM on March 31, 2009

Is there a way to make the fan blow exhaust? I'd run that for a couple of days and scare them away while not doing any damage to your A/C unit.
posted by General Malaise at 1:28 PM on March 31, 2009

Response by poster: I guess I do need to figure out how to get a look at the top of the a/c. I don't have a ladder nearly tall enough, so this is going to involve hanging out the window while standing on a step-stool.

Perhaps I can involve a camera in some way so that I don't kill myself trying to not kill some baby birds.
posted by tastybrains at 1:32 PM on March 31, 2009

To prevent this problem in the future, you can look into getting a plastic owl decoy. I don't have any personal experience with them myself, but I've noticed a lot of people in my area use them to keep birds away.
posted by geeky at 1:53 PM on March 31, 2009

Can you contact a local wild animal rescue organization in your area to help relocate the trespassers?
posted by talkingmuffin at 2:09 PM on March 31, 2009

the horseflies that grew in the carcass had made their way into my apartment through the A/C's intakes.

I'm not sure what you call a horsefly, but those flies that lay maggots on small dead animals, who then reduce the corpse to a mere stain, then hatch into flies, swarm around for a while, and then finding no more small dead animals leave by whatever route you provide, or else die off in a few days?

Those things are a godsend if you've got a dead mouse in the wall: nothing left to rot and putrify. Without a corpse they'll be gone soon.

But maybe a screen on the AC intake, you don't want to be in the business of electrically collecting bugs.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:27 PM on March 31, 2009

My bet is the air conditioner is already toast. I had this exact problem with pigeons once in my apartment in New York. When it hit air conditioner season I realized I'd have to move the nest if I wanted to use the AC. So I recreated the nest on my fire escape and brought the baby pigeon in one window and out the other into Nest #2. He grew up fine and eventually flew away to wreak havoc somewhere else, but the air conditioner was unusable and probably had been from the moment his parents started building the nest. Once you get a good look in there you'll probably find it's already full of dropped twigs and bird poop.
posted by MsMolly at 3:50 PM on March 31, 2009

Two choices. You could wait them out. Hatching and raising young only takes a few weeks.

Or you could just remove the nest so that they move on. Mourning doves are not endangered. They spend their lives making one nest after another and raising one brood after another -- three or four times a season. That's all they do their entire lives. If you remove the nest, they will just go someplace else and make another.
posted by JackFlash at 4:59 PM on March 31, 2009

I got a plastic owl decoy as a joke for Xmas... If you want it, let me know!
posted by ShadePlant at 5:08 PM on March 31, 2009

About Damage to the AC: My window AC unit doesn't suck any outside air inside so bird poop on the outside likely doesn't make a difference. Bugs certainly do not regularly crawl through the machine and gain entrance-that would not be a selling point in mosquito country. The whole point is to have the the hot bits outside so i can have mechanically compressed cold air inside, and if it is hot enough to actually use an AC unit, I'm not going to suck in some nice hot air to cool down. Its like worrying about the bugs on your car radiator - I don't think it matters if there is rust and bird crap on the outside of your AC unit.

Turn the AC unit on. Either they'll adapt to it or they'll find someplace else to live. They'll likely stick around - which should be cool. Be like halogen.
posted by zenon at 5:12 PM on March 31, 2009

Response by poster: Looks like the A/C might already be damaged ... I turned it on when I got home from work yesterday and it pretty much sounds like a clogged garbage disposal.

We've been planning on getting central air for a long time ... looks like these stupid birds have pushed the date up a little bit for us. :-P
posted by tastybrains at 9:39 AM on April 1, 2009

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