Chirping at night enough to drive animal lover mad


June 16, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

The problem with being an animal lover is that you can't blow the little creatures' heads off even when they are asking for it.

I didn't used to be an animal lover. But then I wrote a column saying that if one purpose of hunting is to thin the herd of its dumbest animals, then now I understood why so many hunters '' shot themselves.

And this national animal lovers group sent me this plaque, and I was stuck. And I had to go on and defend deer against the latest Yuppie trend, which is to rid the earth of everything except Yuppies.

I'm sure you have seen the recent stories: Deer, which have been over-bred for decades in order to give hunters more targets, are now eating suburban azaleas and bumping into BMWs and causing all sorts of harm.

The enlightened solution: Shoot them all. Because God gave this planet solely to mankind for our convenience, and if any other species gives us any trouble, we will hand it a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

And people with damaged azaleas and front fenders (do you know what it costs to do body work on a BMW?) don't want to hear any nonsense about denying future generations the pleasures of knowing certain animals.

If Disney can make a convincing robot of Abe Lincoln, he can certainly make a convincing robot of a deer or a whale or an elephant or anything else we need to kill in order to make more room for us.

Anyway, so I get this plaque that assures me I am an official animal lover. And then a few weeks ago I move to a new neighborhood, and I discover that I have moved to a place where the birds chirp at night.

I honestly did not know this was possible. I thought birds slept at night or stored nuts for the winter or whatever the hell it is that birds do after sundown.

But no, in my new neighborhood the birds chirp all night long. So I called my friend, Bob, whom I depend on for animal advice. He grew up on a farm and his father and mother still live on a farm and although he's pretty indifferent to animals (farmers tend to look upon animals the way the rest of us look upon money market accounts), he knows about them.

"Fire a shotgun into the trees around your house, and they'll scatter," he said.

Are you crazy? I said. Maybe you can do that in the country, but not in the city.

Bob laughed. "In most cities in America you can fire a shotgun and not even get noticed," he said.

I still can't do it, I said. If I start shooting birds, I'll get nasty letters from animal lovers. There's got to be another solution.

"Sure," Bob said. "Call your local Cooperative Extension Service."

I had heard this advice before. Sometimes someone will call Donahue or Alan Prell and say, "My life is empty and without meaning, can you help?" And they will say: "Sure, call your local Cooperative Extension Service."

And it doesn't matter what your problem is. Having trouble with chickweed? Mice in your hayloft? Want to know the best way to re-grout your bathroom? Call your Cooperative Extension Service.

So I called. And I got told they don't do birds. But the guy did have an 800-number for a Nuisance Bird service provided by the U.S. Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service.

I am not kidding. Nuisance birds have their own 800 number.

So I called and tried to describe my particular nuisance birds. They sort of go: Tuh-whEEET. Tuh-whEEET. Cheep-cheep-cheep. Peep-tweet-peep. CHEEP! BEEP! CHEEP! A RAMA LAMMA DING DONG! I said.

The guy was silent for a while. "I think it might be mockingbirds," he said.

Could it be grackles? I said. Actually, I have no idea what grackles sound or look like. But I would feel a lot less guilty killing something called a grackle.

"No," he said, "it's probably mockingbirds. But when the weather gets hotter, they will move on."

I don't think I can wait, I said.

"Well," he said, "we do have tapes of bird distress calls that you can play. But you have to play the tapes very, very loudly."

In other words, I could either be disturbed by real birds or taped birds.

"And we don't have tapes for mockingbirds, anyway," the guy said. "But if the trees are near your house, you could tie a rope around the branch and give it a good shake when they make noise."

But shaking the birds out of the trees sounded almost as mean as shot-gunning them.

What about plastic owls? I said. Wouldn't they scare the other birds away?

"It might work for one night," he said. "But then the next night you'll find the birds sitting on them."

So that was that. But there is one repository of wisdom that I have not yet tapped: You, my readers.

If any of you know of a kindly way to keep birds from chirping at night, you have 72 hours to contact me.

Because after that, I'm getting myself a lariat and a big net and it's going to be grackle fricassee at my house.

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