Second Thought: Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Forget Avian Flu

In Fort Worth, Itís Beware Grackle-Mania


I generally think of birds as flying rats. Some people attract them with feeders and go on trips just to look at birds wondrously through binoculars, but to me, theyíre just another annoying critter that pecks at dead squirrels in the street and makes too much noise outside my window in the morning.

So donít put me down as some environmental kook who loves nature. Iím an urban guy who feels uncomfortable without concrete under my feet. Hawks making lazy circles in the sky make me nervous.

Which brings us to the grackle problem in downtown Fort Worth. Evidently, these pesky birds that move into Cowtown every winter have become the cityís number-one problem. Bird crap everywhere and screeching noises. Did I mention bird crap?

So Fort Worth is now going into its anti-bird mode and has come up with great plans to rid itself of this menace. There are now city workers aiming laser beams at trees. And spotlights. Next will be guys riding around in pickups trucks shooting some kind of fireworks out of shotguns and setting off noise cannons.

If all that doesnít work, the city will immerse the trees in some kind of citrus-based fog that the grackles donít seem to like either. And if that doesnít do the trick, the city wants to bring in falcons ó a new bird to run the old one out. Evidently, the falcons donít poop on cars, or at least not in such volume.

I know the birds are foul and bothersome, but ... does anyone besides me see a bit of overreaction here? Itís almost comical. I havenít seen this type of seriousness about a downtown problem since the business community decided that a new jail might bring riff-raff humans downtown to visit their family members in the tank. Put homeless people on that list as well.

Oh well, birds and prisoners and street people are big problems for the high-end condo people moving into downtown, so we have to get rid of all the menacing creatures, I guess. But getting rid of birds is tougher than moving out lower-class human strata, so we need to take this further. Iím not much of an expert on grackles, but Houston and Dallas and Austin ó and even Fort Worth ó have all tried the shotguns and lasers and cannons in the past, and the grackles always come back. Like birds have always done, the grackles come to downtown areas in the winter because there is plenty of food, water, trees, and no natural predators.

So if these birds are indeed the menace we are being told, letís go after them in a bigger way. Get those firecrackers out of the shotguns and put some real ammo in there. On Friday nights, barricade downtown off for a few hours and put the good olí boys in the back of pickups and let them have at it. Think of the tourist potential. Go hunting, then out to eat at an expensive restaurant and take in a show at Bass Hall. Maybe the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra can do the theme from the Dukes of Hazzard.

If the birds donít leave, get out the napalm. Put electrodes in the trees. Grackles like mice, the experts say, so wire up some plastic mice with bombs and when the birds swoop down ó kablooey! And if all this doesnít work, then use the money from the Trinity River development and dome the city. Fort Worth will then be famous for building the Grackle Dome.

Or maybe thereís another solution. As the great poet Robert Penn Warren once wrote ďGrackles Goodbye! The sky will be vacant and lonely/Till again I hear your hordeís rusty creak high above/Confirming the yearís turn and the fact that only, only/In the name of Death do we learn the true name of Love.Ē Whatever.

Look, folks. Country people are willing to put up with cow poop and bad tv reception in return for the joys of living surrounded by nature and not surrounded by humans. íBurbanites deal with long commutes in return for a chance to water the crabgrass and barbecue in the backyard. And city people the world over have learned to deal with bird doo ó be it pigeon, sparrow, or grackle ó as the price of enjoying museums, good restaurants, and a coffee bar every few blocks. So letís just hold our noses, wash off the bird poop, and move on ó carefully. Watch that slippery patch. No, donít park there. ...

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