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August 6, 2002

Our summer has been rather placid, bird-wise, but I see by the newspaper from Oklahoma City that others are having the usual problems with starlings, black birds and other pests. Their coverage of this annual battle of man against birds has revealed some new and, I hope, interesting information.

You will remember from previous columns that I complain each year about those pesky starlings. They are the birds with black shiny feathers that nest by the thousands in nearby groves, especially the leafy trees that grow along creek banks. That is where the upstart birds clean themselves before retiring after a hard day of scavenging carbohydrates and other delectables, virtually snatching them from the beaks of the more genteel (and therefore more desirable) birds that populate these parts. They also leave messy deposits on cars, the top of your head or anything else in the line of fire as they soar from the trees at daybreak or return to their nests at dusk. Starlings have been like outlaw birds in this community as long as I can remember.

Various means have been employed to make the birds so uncomfortable that they would move on, hopefully miles from here, but they always come back. Several years ago our county commissioners thought the problem in the courthouse park was bad enough that shotgun blasts were used to frighten the birds away. It worked momentarily, but it was not the final solution. The birds simply found more hospitable locales.

Now, according to the metropolitan press, steps are being taken to rid the downtown Oklahoma City area of the birds. The job has been turned over to Avian Flyaway Bird Relocation Systems. That is the real name of a company that tackles problems like these. The name has the ring of a Hitler-era concentration camp, and it is going to cost Oklahoma City $47,000 for a one-year contract. The Avian Relocation system utilizes loud noises and bright lights. Lots of luck, Oklahoma City. Our shotgun experiment, which was similar but cost a lot less, didn’t work very well. Apparently our birds simply moved to a more pastoral setting and now, decades later, another generation of the birds and the problems they created are still with us. It is still risky to walk through the courthouse park without a hat.

Anyway, we’ll be watching the Oklahoma City project with interest. The same company claims to have chased the birds from downtown Dallas. Avian Flyaways also is being considered for a removal system at the Myriad Gardens, the Cox Convention Center, Ford Center and the Bricktown Canal.

Meanwhile, on our own property, we’ll continue to harass the unwelcome visitors (the starlings, that is) with a loud hand clap. At best, that method only works for a few minutes, and sometimes I have to wonder if those birds consider the noise to be applause.