Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 31, 2013

Dealing with bird infestation

Cleaning has become a daily ritual

By Ken de la Bastide
Kokomo Tribune

---- — For residents of the Holiday Mobile Home Community, sweeping up bird droppings and cleaning the windshields of their vehicles has become a daily ritual.

Unlike in the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds,” these feathered foes are not attacking humans but inundating them with fecal material.

Owners of the mobile home community have hired Critter Control to try to chase the birds away.

“It’s bad,” Dale Chasteen, a five-year resident of the community, said. “There’s droppings all over the sidewalk. It has to be swept every day. We’ve always had birds out here, but nothing like it is this year.”

He said the droppings are requiring residents to clean the windshields on their vehicles on a daily basis, and vehicles aren’t the only target.

“My wife sat out on the porch the other night and she got bombarded,” Chasteen said. “She had to come in and take a shower. It was in her hair and on the side of her face.”

European starlings are considered nuisance birds, and aren’t even native to North America, said Carl Wilms, manager of the Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary. They can roost in numbers greater than a million, though residents at Holiday Mobile Home Community’s guesses at the size of their resident flock ranged from 1,000 to 5,000.

Darrell Brower, a nine-year resident, said the bird problem started about five years ago, but has never been this bad.

He said the birds are around during the day, but the situation gets worse at night when the starlings roost.

Tim Dale, owner of Critter Control, is using something called a bird cannon, a handheld device the emits a loud boom, and a laser light to try to deal with the problem.

“We’re doing bird harassment,” he said. “It should be pretty effective. We’re trying to retrain them to go someplace else.”

Chasteen said the loud booms being used by Critter Control seem to be helping, but others are more skeptical.

“I don’t think this will relieve the problem,” Brower said. “If it works, that’s great. The birds fly away and come right back.”

Dale said he believes the birds are nesting in the mobile home community because the trees are the first on the north side of Kokomo.

Wilms said the starling has gained notoriety for roosting in urban areas in large numbers, but also likes to roost in rural areas.

He said he didn’t think the effort to relocate the birds in Kokomo would be successful, noting they will just fly to another tree.

Troy Pell, a three-year resident, said the birds have always been a problem, but never like this.

“I’ve seen the guys working; in my opinion it hasn’t helped,” he said. “They’re chasing the birds around the trailer court.”

Dale said he will be at the community for a week and then return every other day for the next few weeks.

“We can’t control where they go, I hope they leave town,” he said. “We’ll keep coming back until the birds are gone.”

Brower said since he doesn’t have mature trees on his property, the problem is not as bad as for him as it is for his neighbors.

He sprays off the neighbor’s ramp leading to their door and the side of their home every day.

“If you park underneath a tree, you have a mess,” Brower said.

He used to give the birds a blast from an air horn, but learned it didn’t help.

Phyllis Bogson moved to Kokomo from Florida two months ago and noticed the problem right away.

“It’s creating quite a mess,” she said. “It’s horrible. We just cleaned the walkway last Monday and it needs to be done again. I washed my car over the weekend; it was a mess.”

Bogson added the birds are noisy at night.

On the walkway to her home are two fake owls, but she said they’re not keeping the birds away.

 

The European starling was introduced to North America in the 1890s by Shakespeare enthusiasts who wanted everyone in the new land to know the birds that appear in his tales, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The starling is known for its ability to mimic the sounds of other birds and human speech. The starling makes its appearance in Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part 1" where Hotspur proposes to teach a starling to say "Mortimer" to disturb the king's sleep. Mozart was known to have kept a starling that learned his songs. He was so attached to the bird that when it died three years later, he held an elaborate funeral complete with a procession of mourners and graveside poetry recitations, according to an Indiana University research paper entitled "Mozart's Starling." Starlings can pose a health risk through their droppings. A fungus that causes respiratory disease may grow in the soils below their roosts and the spores may become airborne when disturbed, especially during dry weather. Most cases of infection are mild, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.