Grackle control

From his perch in downtown Austin, Jude Galligan shoos the pesky urban birds:

At a recent DANA board meeting I learned that Grackles don’t like lasers. Apparently, if you shine a laser light into the tree tops it irritates them so much that the Grackles move elsewhere. The University of Texas used to have a problem with grackles. Their solution was to fire shotgun blanks. It worked, but I don’t think my neighbors would think well of me it I took that route. Light seemed like a harmless way to deal with the problem. I don’t have any lasers, and I’m not sure where to get them, but I do have a powerful Mag-Lite.

I placed the Mag-Lite next to my bed and, like clockwork, at 5:30am thousands of birds erupted in cacophony of noise. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my Mag-Lite and proceeded to illuminate the trees, shaking and directing the light beam over several tree tops next to my building and across the street. (This must have looked very strange to those heading to work in the morning.) Amber thought I was nuts. It didn’t take more than a second for thousands of birds to migrate to another spot a few blocks away. I did this for two weeks and the Grackles are gone and no longer wake me up at 5:30. Instead, they’ve gone to the other side of my building. So, neighbors if you are reading this, get your self a Mag-Lite and get back to bed.

Unless, of course, you live on the other side of his building, in which case you’ll just send them back where they came from.

Meanwhile, these techniques have worked in Oklahoma City:

[Charles] King [of King Pest Control] said he uses flashy pyrotechnics when the environment isn’t too windy or dry, otherwise he uses small cannon noise-makers.

“They’re not that clever, so you can manipulate them,” he said. “It just takes a few days of consistent behavior modification to convince them to go somewhere else. The bigger the flock, the easier it is to manipulate them. A lot of people will think the opposite, but in a big group it only takes a couple of jumpy birds to get the rest of them to take off. You can’t do that so easily if you’ve got a flock of just a few dozen.”

One thing these solutions have in common: they lack lethality. Says King:

Scaring the birds usually is the only workable option available to pest experts. Poison is risky, and no one wants to deal with hundreds or thousands of animal carcasses anyway.

I’m told that some similar-looking species can be baked into pies in quantities of two dozen.



  1. fillyjonk »

    15 December 2008 · 9:06 am

    “Fricken’ lasers” say the grackles.

    On my grad-school campus, they had problems with a related species – starlings (which are supposedly edible but I don’ t know anyone – not even my backwoodsy officemate-at-the-time who used to regale us with stories of the different ways to prepare possum and why you have to cook groundhogs over an open fire [so the fat drains off properly] who would eat one). There were also pigeons (which I guess also are technically edible)

    So the campus invested in some “bird control” technology: a large loudspeaker, mounted on the student union (which was unfortunately, next door to the library) that would play the distress-calls of birds about every 30 seconds during the daylight hours.

    (I spent many, many hours in that library. At times, keeping a tally of how many times that @#@#!$ distress call went off).

    The problem was, the tape was of some bird not native to the area (the ornithologist used to refer to the sound as “the squeezed seagull”), so after a few weeks, the birds acclimated to it. The dang thing STILL goes off, or at least it was the last time I was on campus for a visit.

    I think lasers would have been much cooler. They would have had the added bonus of garage bands lining up to practice in the area so they could get their own laser light show.

  2. Flack »

    6 January 2009 · 4:25 pm

    “I don’t have any lasers, and I’m not sure where to get them.”

    Checkout line of any major grocery store? Last one I picked up was made to hang on your keychain and I picked it up while waiting in line at Lowe’s.

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