Culture

How to Live With Bird Poop

It might be harmful for your car's paint, but truth is, the world needs it.

In the hierarchy of animal droppings, bird poop stands supreme. Like the one guest that shows up to a black-tie event in a white sport coat, it shines bright in a crowd of brown craps. And whereas most excrement is left buried under grass or squished across sidewalks, bird poop chooses us, landing all over the place, including the hoods and windows of our freshly washed cars.

Bird poop begins its journey in the cloacathe catch-all of orifices—where instead of urine, nitrogenous wastes are excreted in the form of whitish acid and are expelled at the same time as feces, splattering down as a frothy goo.

The volume of the droppings generally depends on the size of the bird, but the varying shapes are all physics. Most bird poop has the classic smatter, that heavy drop with a slight sperm-like tail. Other familiar shapes include the double-execution shot, the spiral galaxy, Philip Baker Hall eyes, the crater, the radish rose, the melted Dali clock, the wax postage seal, the two-dollar taco, and the halfhearted runny egg.

As a collective, the drops take on a feeling of abstract expressionism, channeling the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock. But in the end, the collage isn’t a multi-million-dollar piece of art: The uric acid can actually corrode the paint job on your car and cost you hundreds of dollars in body work.

It may surprise you that there’s real data on which cars get pooped on the most. A study by the UK-based auto company Halfords recorded the frequency of droppings and found that red cars received the most hits at 18 percent, followed by blue cars at 14 percent, and black at 11 percent. White, gray, and green cars only received minimal attention. The birds weren’t polled, so we don’t have a scientific explanation as to why red was so popular.

There are some certifiable theories, though. The birds may see red as danger or as a sign of something extremely delicious. (That certainly explains when and where I go to the bathroom.) But before you repaint your Corvette and burn all your Bulls jerseys, be aware that not everyone’s buying it.

“As far as I know, there’s no correlation between the color of a car and whether it gets pooped on,” says Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count Director. “Two things do seem to determine whitewash. One is if a bird sees its reflection in the side mirror of the car. Then the bird will sit on the door and attack its reflection in the mirror, and there will be quite a stream of droppings . . . And if the car is closer to a nest, feeders, or a roosting spotyes, it’s more likely to be the recipient of whitewash.”

Suffice to say, parking under trees, telephone wires, lamp poles, or in the driveway of a birdhouse will clearly lead to an uptick in droppings. Some people hang reflectors and fake owls in their yards to scare away birds. Adding those to the top of your car might help, though they will likely get you pulled over in negative five seconds. You can't win.

Except, maybe you can. If you're lucky enough to catch a bird making a fresh poop, just mop up the present with some seltzer water and a microfiber cloth. (The carbonation helps break the chemicals down.) You can also buy specialized wipes that neutralize the acidity of the excrement. Or, go the Waymo route and add mini wipers to every surface of your car.

If the poop is long dried, leave a cloth soaked with car-safe cleaner over the stain for about 10 minutes, and gently rub it away. Then, smooth out the paint by using a clay bar, polish, or soft sanding. When another bird immediately craps on your car, simply repeat the previous steps. You may even want to swallow your pride and cover your car with a tarp during the height of spring and fall migration. If you catch a bird pulling up the tarp to poop underneath, it’s clearly personal.

But bird poop isn't all bad. It spreads seeds in places that need a little TLC, and it's doing more to blunt climate change than most Americans. Beyond the doo-gooder stuff, there's also a selfish perk: Getting crapped on by a bird is supposedly good luck. Another reason to hang onto that MJ jersey after all. 

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