Birds wear out their welcome in Frederick Noise, droppings have residents grousing

December 01, 1991|By John Rivera

Some visitors in Frederick have overstayed their annual visit, and the locals are beginning to get annoyed.

Thousands of pesky blackbirds -- an array of starlings, grackles and cowbirds dominating -- have taken roost in the trees and in the eaves of buildings in Frederick's historic district.

In recent weeks, their screeching and droppings have sent people bustling for cover.

"It's an annoyance," said Mayor Paul P. Gordon. "We've had this problem for at least 10 years. . . . Because it is the historic district and people like to sit out on benches and what not, there have been more complaints this year."

The migratory birds stop each year in Frederick on their journey south for the winter. They usually arrive in the beginning of October and depart in November, Mr. Gordon said.

"They fly south for the winter -- bye-bye, blackbird -- and that's it until next October," he said.

In past years, the birds stayed on the outskirts of town. But as more and more trees are being cut down for housing tracts around Frederick, the birds have sought out roosts closer to town, Mr. Gordon said.

Frederick's blackbird onslaught is not unique. In fact, it is small-time compared with the one in Graceham, north of Frederick in the Catoctins, which faced the starling invasion of 1974.

Early that year, an estimated 2 million birds inhabited a 60-acre grove of white pine trees on Edgar Emrich's farm. The birds attracted national attention for weeks as they literally darkened the skies returning to Mr. Emrich's farm after a day of foraging in the countryside.

The birds eventually were expelled by a five-day barrage of noise and pyrotechnics. The next year, after the grove was thinned, the birds returned, but there weren't as many.

Frederick residents will have to use their imaginations to drive off the current invaders, since federal law prohibits shooting or poisoning migratory birds.

"There's not much we can do," Mr. Gordon said. "We hang balloons, we can create noise, we do have a machine that does a bird distress call, or we can use small buckshot to harass them or chase them."

Wait a minute. A bird distress call?

"It's a distress call of a crow in trouble, and supposedly that will move them and keep them away," Mr. Gordon said. "But I don't know that it's any more effective than any kind of noise."

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