Innovation takes flight for inventive Charleston duo seeking cleaner docks 

How to Avoid Big Bird and Big Bird Droppings

Those unsightly blotches. That embarrassing mess. The inopportune gifts dropped from the heavens above.

When it comes to the presents our winged neighbors leave behind on a daily basis, we all grumble on our way to the car wash or back to the closet, but few contemplate the situation long enough to divine a solution.

Frustrated dock owners Bud Doty and Rob Tuekewitz have become inventors and entrepreneurs with their WhirlyBird Repeller, a device designed to shoo birds away and keep them away.

"We both owned docks that had major problems with birds, and had both tried numerous devices to repel them, including plastic owls, snakes, and electronic devices," Doty says. "The problem with these devices is that while they may work in the short term, in time, the birds become acclimated to these methods and eventually return in full force."

To overcome this basic flaw, Doty and Tuekewitz knew whatever they came up with would have to employ constantly changing sounds, vibrations, and reflections to continually keep birds off guard.

What the duo came up with is a solution of almost Steve Jobsian elegance.

Molded from clear plastic in the shape of a peregrine falcon, the WhirlyBird relies on wind power — "Even the slightest breeze," say its inventors — to make it spin, wobble and vibrate in an astounding number of ways.

What's more, Doty says, its UV-resistant, clear plastic design allows it to throw off an ever-changing pattern of reflections.

"As a result, birds never get used to it, and they stay away," Doty says.

Doty and Tuekewitz first tested the Whirlybird on their own docks, finding that for best results they needed one device for every 12 by 12 foot area they wanted to protect. Soon, word-of-mouth had them in their respective workshops, fashioning Whirlybirds for friends and associates.

Not too much later, the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Charleston wanted to test the WhirlyBird for its own purposes.

"The challenge birds pose for the Coast Guard is primarily related to the solar panels used to recharge the batteries on these navigational devices," said Tuekewitz. "The bird droppings on the panels would cause outages, and that could be a real problem for boaters."

Fourteen months later, the Coast Guard concluded the device was effective.

The portable device is also helping agricultural businesses increase their yield by reducing the amount of fruits and berries which are lost to winged predators.

The two men founded WhirlyBird Solutions to meet demand for the product, which now sells for $49.95. Doty and Tuekewitz have also secured two patents and a PCT to ensure international protections on the device.

They've partnered with Mulitplastics in Mt. Pleasant to manufacture and market the bird repeller worldwide. In keeping with the hometown and do-good pride of the endeavor, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation is employed to assemble and package the device for delivery.

"Initially a lot of people told us that to make this work as a business, we'd have to manufacture the WhirlyBird overseas," Tuekewitz said. "But we didn't want to do that."

Promotion of the WhirlyBird also took a local and decidedly tongue-in-cheek turn last week, when Doty and Tuekewitz hosted back-to-back, admission-free showings of the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds at the Terrace Theater. Savvy marketing, but it's also a reminder to be thankful that all we've got to worry about is the poop.


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