This Fake Owl is Creepy—But Does a Great Job at Keeping My Balcony Clean

published Nov 21, 2018
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(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

When I moved into my apartment almost five years ago, one of the biggest perks of my new space was its small, private balcony. It’s only large enough to fit a small table and two chairs, but I felt like I found a real estate diamond in the rough.

Finding an affordable apartment in Manhattan with some private outdoor space is about as rare as a couple on “House Hunters” saying they don’t want an open floor plan and hardwood floors. I instantly began to fantasize about all the things I’d do on my balcony. Maybe I’d enjoy a glass of wine with a friend. Maybe I’d curl up with a book or my laptop on a lazy Sunday. Maybe I’d enjoy an occasional dinner al fresco.

But, unfortunately, most of my activities were put on hold because while I loved my balcony, I quickly learned that Manhattan’s pigeons loved it more.

Without out going into all the grotesque details, pigeons would frequently chill on my balcony for hours, which wouldn’t have been too big of a deal if they weren’t persistently leaving their, erm, “droppings” behind. No matter how many times I’d try to clean my balcony—which, might I add, is no glamorous feat—the problem would persist. It eventually got so bad that half of my balcony was covered in “droppings,” which made it virtually impossible to enjoy the space.

When I finally aired my grievances with my landlord (and got the “droppings” professionally cleaned) she recommended I buy a fake garden owl to keep the birds at bay. Garden owls are essentially scarecrows that work particularly well at spooking pigeons enough to make them want to avoid the area—without doing anything to hurt the birds, of course. Desperate to try anything, I purchased Gardeneer by Dalen’s Solar-Powered Owl—and it actually helped control my balcony’s pigeon “dropping” problem.

Whether you live in a bustling city or remote country, you’ve probably seen these fake owls in someone’s garden, on their deck, or balcony. These weird figurines are designed to trick birds into thinking there’s a big owl monitoring your space, which ultimately deters them from hanging out there.

Gardeneer’s model features a small solar panel at the top of the owl’s head. Depending on how much solar energy is captured, the head will move every few minutes, making it look even more lifelike. If I’m being totally honest, this owl’s beady eyes and wobbling head even startles me every so often, so I can only imagine how scary it is for the pigeons.

The difference has been night and day. Not only are there far fewer pigeons on my balcony than before, the “droppings” are now at a minimum. I still have to regularly clean my balcony of the city’s grime, grit, and dirt, but it’s certainly clean enough to have a nice dinner with my boyfriend or do some work outside on weekends.

Can I definitively say this faux owl single-handedly solved my pigeon problem? No. But while factors like weather and food source could have contributed, there’s no denying Gardeneer’s owl was a big help. Of course, there are other ways to keep pigeon visits to a minimum. You could try making your own DIY scarecrow, and the Humane Society suggests keeping your outdoor space free of crumbs or any other unintentional food sources.