Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 21, 2013

Princeton searching for relief from large roost of ‘nuisance birds’

KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Click here for video

The city of Princeton and a local property owner are both looking for ways to remove a large roost of starlings that have been swarming Main Street and the courthouse area.

City Code Enforcement Director Bill Buzzo said the city has received approximately a dozen complaints regarding the starling roost at 1450 Main Street in Princeton over the past few months. Buzzo said the majority of the complaints have been filed by tenants of 1450 Main Street and surrounding properties.

Though the birds roost on one building, Buzzo said they have been seen swooping around the Mercer County Courthouse and even as far down as the Princeton Municipal Building.

“It looks like millions of birds, but it’s probably only in the thousands,” Buzzo said. “They are called nuisance birds because they flock together in big numbers and scavenge together. I have noticed groups of these birds swooping around city hall. They are most active during the early evening hours. They circle over the courthouse during the evening waiting to land. There is a swishing sound that often accompanies the different groups as they ready to roost. In the morning, the head out of the area to scavenge. It causes a lot of different nuisances like waste and noise.”

Buzzo said many of the complaints lodged about the birds stem from the droppings the starlings leave behind.

“When the waste from the birds accumulates, it can be toxic,” he said. “You can see the droppings everywhere. The tenants in the area have been complaining because of the noise and because of how much money they are paying because they have to wash their cars so frequently. I went to take photos and video for the city and even got droppings on my clothing from the birds while I was out there.”

Buzzo said the city believes the ivy on the building is attracting the roost.

“In this case, there is ivy on the building attracting the starlings to roost,” Buzzo said. “The ivy is going out on the building, which the owners do have rights to take care of. The issue is this is an old building, so removing the ivy could be troublesome, especially if it has gotten into the building’s structure. We have been trying to set up a time to talk with the building owners about what can be done.”

Harold B. Wolfe, III, who is one of the owners of the building, said state law regarding wildlife means it is up to the city to get rid of the roost.

“It has been going on since November of 2011,” Wolfe said. “They used to roost at the courthouse, but when they started the courthouse renovations they ran them over to our building. They are roosting in the ivy on the building. We feel the city should deal with it since we can’t deal with wildlife. Private citizens are not responsible for the actions of wildlife. I feel it is the city’s responsibility, but they are a bird sanctuary so they can’t hurt birds in Princeton.”

Wolfe said he and other employees at the firm have been dealing with the issue for the past two winters.

“We are seeing bird droppings on our vehicles and our property,” he said. “They leave in the spring to nest, but it is a major problem in the winter. They come in about November and they typically stay until it warms up. This is the second winter we have been dealing with them. They go out to the landfill during the day.”

While the business has taken some steps to discourage the birds, Wolfe said stripping the ivy off the building is not the solution to the problem.

“We have put owls up,” he said. “The city wants us to strip our building, but that ivy has been there for years. I don’t think the ivy is the problem the birds are the problem. This building is close to 100 years, and the ivy has been on the building for a long time and wasn’t a problem until the birds left the courthouse. We can’t strip the ivy because it is part of the building with that many decades of growth. The city can deal with this should they choose to.”

Wolfe said he would like to see the city import falcons to eradicate the starling problem.

“I know the city of Charleston imported peregrine falcons and put hawk perches on the buildings,” Wolfe said. “I think if the city would do that it would solve the problem. I can’t do it because I don’t have any licensing but we would like the city to do. I hate these birds and we would like to see the birds gone. I don’t think I should have to tear apart my building or get rid of my ivy because the city thinks that is the best solution. I hope the city does something to end the problem.”

Buzzo said the city intends to meet with the property owners to discuss how the situation can be handled, but no meeting has yet been scheduled.

“There are different things we are looking at to address the problem,” he said. “I have personally been researching different techniques and methods to get rid of the birds. Cutting back the vines to eliminate the roosting spot, sonic repellents sending out distress calls, and nets on the building are some options. It is just a matter of deciding what is the best and most cost-effective measures we can take. We are hoping to provide some of these options to the property owners when we meet with them.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com