Western Perspective

How do I get a birds nest out of a cellphone tower?

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 3-Sep-2008 08:50

I know that you're a clever lot, so I am looking for some innovative ideas to get me out of a sitcky situation (literally).

I have a couple of cellphone towers where I am trying to upgrade services (3G wooohooo!!?!) but am being held up by birds building rather large and impregnable nests inside and near the top.

You all know what these look like, but here's a photo (not actually a tower with a nest in it):

 More information:

  • These nests are tough - 1.5 to 2m thick, throughout the whole inside of the pole
  • There are existing cables running through that cannot be damaged as they are carring 2G services
  • The nests are 10 to 15m up
  • You can get entry into the base of the pole
  • These sites are remote, not in metropolitan areas
  • We can climb these poles

Our previous approach has been to unhook the existing cables (coaxial feeders) and see if the nest can be loosened, and if that doesn't work, pull the pole apart - with a crane. This is a very expensive and disruptive process.

I spoke to a colleague who delt to a nest in an Invercargill pole with a man in a dust suit, goggles and breathing filter mask, standing in the bottom of the pole with a long length of 25mm conduit with a hook on the end - and a whole lot of time.

Obviously "not letting the birds in in the first place" is the ultimate solution - too late!

Any suggestions or plans, however whacky or mad will be considered. We may even provide a reward for any idea that proves successful - of course you can keep the birds nest (and the bird) when we get it out!!?!

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Comment by tonyhughes, on 3-Sep-2008 09:48

ROFL Rob. Now I have seen everything on Geekzone.

Comment by hellonearthisman, on 3-Sep-2008 12:44

I would use some of the cables like wiresaw and the back and forth action should break the nest up, maybe drag a rope through with knots in the rope.

Comment by hellonearthisman, on 3-Sep-2008 12:45

Oh and the dust will be toxic bird poo so maskup.

Comment by barf, on 3-Sep-2008 12:54

compressed air tank and a 90-degree ball-valve (water mains-type).
I could lend you my potato cannon? :-)

Comment by JAMMAN2110, on 3-Sep-2008 12:58


Or you could conduct a "scientific experiment" with some fire...

Comment by sleemanj, on 3-Sep-2008 13:18

Some sort of augur to dig in, then pull back, like a spiral tent peg/dog peg/aircraft tie-down, roughly the hook on a stick improved a bit.

Comment by Balchy, on 3-Sep-2008 13:55

water blaster?

Comment by wongtop, on 3-Sep-2008 15:42

A fire hose / waterblaster inside from the top of the tower (assuming the electronics are all in the hut)?

Comment by inane, on 3-Sep-2008 17:01

first of all I'd be considering at least an ultrasonic or regular bird dissuation device to keep them away, as for loosening up the nests, a couple of queries.

First of all, are the cables inside the poles shielded adequately? (eg, would a bit of water hurt them)

the poles dont need to have much drainage if you have access to the bottom.

if the answer is "yes they are shielded" then the answer is:

equipment required:
- Hose longer than the height of the pole,
- generator and water pump OR
- petrol powered water pump
- large tarpaulin (with a hole in the middle, many have this you can make one if you like
- rope (possibly tent poles also)
- 2x barrels.

Fill one  barrel full of  water before getting to the site, at a convienient location.
2nd barrel is to catch water
-rig up the tarpaulin inside the base of the pole so that it spreads around the outer ring with the inner hole at the centre of the tarpaulin sitting lower, with the barrel underneath.

climb to the top of the pole with the hose (I am assuming you can get access into the top of the pole, in fact I am assuming thats how the birds get in there)

affix the hose in place / assign someone to hold it up there,

run the water down, the water will loosen up the material and adhesives the birds have used for the nest.

when you run out of water pull the now full barrel from the bottm of the tower, replacing with the empty barrel under neath, check and see how much of the nest is caught in the tarp.

repeat as neccessary.

if this doesn't work, or the cables don't like water, then,

Petrol powered aircompressor, long hose, in from the top and blow all the nest to the bottom, by blasting around the inside sides of the pole with the goal of cutting the nest supports and blowing it down to the ground.

Author's note by Wob, on 3-Sep-2008 17:58

All the cables (and everything else inside and outside the pole) are waterproofed. All the clever and sensitive bits are inside the shelter or cabinets.

I had considered a water blaster, but thought logistics may pose a problem - inane's suggestion with the barrels is excellent.

Keep them coming, all these are great!! (except the suggestion of explosives - heaps of fun, but ultimately self-defeating)

Comment by nzsouthernman, on 3-Sep-2008 18:13

Considering everything inside the pole is waterproof, how about a weak acid or alkaline solution poured through from the top. Give it ten minutes or so to soak through, then hit it again with a stronger solution. Wait again, then a bigger hit with just water should move it along nicely. (Might take a couple of water hits). Check with the suppliers of the cables inside the tower to find out if acid or alkaline will be less probable to damage their cables & fittings.

Comment by couchmonster, on 3-Sep-2008 18:26

On the cheap contact the local rural fire station, for an appropriate 'donation' they might be able to come lend a hand with their high pressure hoses.

For a more professional approach, Hirequip or similar have watertank trailers available, it's not uncommon for pressured water to be required for roading construction crews, rural enviroments and subdivision development (where the water pipes havent been laid yet, and for pressure testing newly laid pipes) are probably the best example I can think of.

So all up water tank, pump and waterblaster/hose.

Logistics won't be too hard if you contact the right people, trailer mount means you can go refill the tank when you run out of water. You should be able to find one with a pump to intake water from a lake/stream rather than requiring a hose. Alternatively get a separate pump to pump in water.

I'm assuming cost isn't really the issue, more minimising disruption to the 2G service. As long as the cables are well sheilded then you'll be fine :)

Comment by gthurman, on 4-Sep-2008 00:17

I'd think you would want to evacuate the birds. I've used fox urine available at sporting goods stores to flush squirrels out of the attic. I haven't tried it for birds. With the birds gone, the nest should start to deteriorate. Eureka makes a nice portable 115V steam cleaner to generate moisture to soften the nest. A $20 inverter from the electronics store will convert auto power to 115V. For less than $10, you can get a small diameter PVC pipe 12 feet long that might allow punching out the softened nest.

Comment by Balchy, on 4-Sep-2008 11:01

Oh Oh Oh I know, EASY OFF BAM!!! BAM! and the dirt is gone!!!

Comment by George Langridge, on 30-Jul-2009 14:43

Can't be sure but that looks like the cell site at Herbert. I used to work for BCL in Christchurch and more than likely installed the base station it along with most of the other ones your working on as well.

Yes unfortunalty the best way to get the bird nesting out is to put on a full length sperm suit, some goggles, dust mask, a hat. Get a rigger at the top with some conduit from above and condit from below and ram the sucker until it loosens up. I remeber doing the one a Temuka and Rangiora.....I'm sure that why they invented trainees for that kind of work.

Author's note by Wob, on 30-Jul-2009 15:07

Correct that is Herbert pole.

About time I updated this with a new blog post - Vodafone site services came to the rescue with rather large water blaster.

Wob's profile

Rob Anderson

Ex Telecom Radio Technician, still in the industry working for everyone except Telecom.

Had enough of the cold, upped sticks and moved to Perth, WA.
Now working for NBN Co on Australia's largest infrastructure project ever.

Samosa lover.