Birds build their nests in locations that offer shelter and safety. But sometimes those locations can be a huge inconvenience for the humans living at those properties. Unfortunately, the cavernous space of an air conditioner unit can be attractive to birds looking to nest and lay eggs—and for homeowners and renters alike, the problem is difficult to ignore.

Birds typically make a home in air conditioning units during times of the year when these units aren’t being actively used. But once the A/C unit turns on for the first time, it puts both the birds and your major appliance at risk. Avoid this mess by taking steps to get rid of the birds in your air conditioner—and to prevent them from coming back in the future.

Birds are Living in My Air Conditioner: What Do I Do?

If birds are living in your A/C unit, your first step should be to cut off power to the appliance itself. If birds get caught in the blades of the appliance, it can damage the mechanical components and lead to serious repair costs—or even force you to buy a new unit altogether.

birds nesting in an ac unit

Once power is removed, you may be able to clear out the birds simply by removing the grate covering the blades of the fan. Scaring the birds may be enough to get them to leave. You can also remove the nest by hand, although keep in mind that if eggs are laying in the nest, moving the nest may cause the parents to abandon the eggs—and/or increase the risk of the eggs being taken by a predator.

If there are baby birds in the nest, or if you’re unsure how to handle a nest with eggs, contact your local animal rescue organization for guidance on how to properly move the nest—or to have a professional assist in the relocation.

Before turning it back on, you’ll also want to give the unit a thorough cleaning to remove debris and buildup from the birds. Bird poop in your air conditioner can cause buildup on components that increase the risk of overheating or improper functioning, and feathers in the air conditioning can jam up fans and other mechanical parts. Restore power to the A/C unit only when this debris is cleared out of the appliance.

How to Remove a Window A/C Nest

If a bird has built a nest on your window A/C unit, the best time to remove the nest is as soon as you notice the nest being built. The farther along the bird gets in building its nest, the more stubborn they may be in rebuilding after you’ve removed the nest from your air conditioner. You could even run into problems with birds returning every summer to build their nest in that same place.

If the nest is already fully built and isn’t causing the A/C unit any harm, you may consider leaving the nest in place until it’s time to remove your A/C unit when temperatures start to cool. By cleaning off the nest and then removing the A/C unit where the nest was perched, you will encourage the bird to build a new nest somewhere else.

How to Free a Bird Stuck in Your Air Conditioner

If a bird is stuck in your air conditioner and you don’t know how to get them out, it’s probably time to contact an HVAC specialist for assistance. An air conditioner technician can safely dismantle the air conditioner to free the bird without compromising your unit’s performance.

While it can be tempting to attempt this on your own, taking apart your air conditioner and messing with its mechanical components can increase the risk of malfunctions and repairs if these parts aren’t properly disassembled. Depending on the bird’s location, this process can be tricky to handle on your own.

If you believe the bird in the air conditioner is injured, contact a local animal rescue for advice on how to free the bird, and whether you should deliver it to a local organization to have it rehabilitated.

Tips to Keep Birds Away From Your Air Conditioner

Preventing birds from nesting or entering your A/C unit is always easier than trying to clear them out. Here are some tips to deter birds from taking interest in this appliance:

  • Install bird spikes. Bird spikes are a simple and highly effective tool to keep birds from roosting on your air conditioner. Bird spikes are particularly effective if you’re looking for tips on how to keep birds away from window air conditioners, but these spikes can be effective on free-standing A/C units as well.
  • Cover the unit when not in use. A tarp or custom air conditioner cover will stop birds from accessing the unit and trying to make it their home. For window A/C units, remove the unit when you’ve stopped using it for the season.
  • Remove nearby bird baths and bird feeders. While these features may beautify your living space by drawing birds into your line of sight, they can also attract birds looking for a place to nest.
  • Seal holes or gaps in your A/C unit. Birds shouldn’t be able to get inside your unit. If they do, find their entry point and have an HVAC specialist properly close it up.

Birds can be a nuisance once they decide your A/C unit is a habitable space, but a little creative thinking and preventative work can clear out these creatures and keep both birds and your air conditioner safe. If you’re struggling to manage your bird problem on your own, seek out the help of a heating and cooling specialist.