Grackles cause grief for Roosevelt courthouse

Freedom Newspapers: Karl Terry
Great-tailed grackles have invaded the trees around the Roosevelt County Courthouse recently. Wildlife specialist Tony Gennaro is set to try noise measures to get the birds to move on.

By Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers

Like a scene from a horror movie, hundreds of great-tailed grackles descend upon the Roosevelt County Courthouse as dusk settles in each evening.

According to Charlene Hardin, Roosevelt County administrator, the birds have gradually taken over the trees at the courthouse. They’ve been there since the summer and have gradually increased in numbers, as the months wore on, said Hardin.

“It started with a few and kept on multiplying,” said Hardin.

Many problems have been caused by the influx of birds, she says. Though the sidewalks are being cleaned every morning, it has not prevented the bird droppings from being tracked into the courthouse and other areas. Though none have been reported, health concerns are also a concern, said Hardin.

“The potential is there, that is why we need to get rid of them,” said Hardin.

Methods, such as placing owls around and putting sticky stuff in the trees have not proven successful, said Hardin. Another alternative that has been tried are noise-makers. Due to the amount of noise the birds make themselves, it has also been unsuccessful. The next plan of action has been to call in wildlife specialist Tony Gennaro, said Hardin.

Great-tailed grackles are a migratory bird and are federally protected birds, said Gennaro. While the males stay in the area, the female birds typically migrate for the winter, though some have been spotted at the courthouse, said Gennaro.

“There is something very pleasing to them, that they like, to keep them around,” said Gennaro.

Gennaro has put in motion a plan of action, which will be safe and humane, to try and force the birds to leave, he said. He will be using a method that was used in 1997 at Eastern New Mexico University to move the same breed of birds, said Gennaro.

Plastic pails with eight to 10 foot long flagging tape streamers will be hung in the trees during the day, to act as a deterrent. During the evening, as the birds come into roost, firecrackers will be placed in the buckets and set off simultaneously, said Gennaro.

The idea is to present a situation to the birds that is unappealing. The buckets and streamers are part of that process, along with the noise from the firecrackers. By placing the firecrackers in the bucket, allows the sound to travel upward into the trees and also to catch any debris, said Gennaro.

“It will scare the daylights out of them, but it’s not going to kill them,” said Gennaro.
If all goes well, the noise will be so dramatic that the birds will leave and not come back to the courthouse. The plan may have to be repeated a few more times in order to get the birds to leave, said Gennaro.

“This is the only way to do it,” said Gennaro.