A few mornings ago people arrived on campus and saw feed corn scattered on the sidewalk. The corn had been blown off the roof.
We had started—and since suspended—a new program with a bird relocation expert that was going to help us manage our very large population of pigeons and grackles. They love our trees, love our ledges, and have foiled several years of effort and many different strategies to make our campus less hospitable to them.
As part of the new program, regular corn was going to be fed to the birds for several weeks, to get them accustomed to feeding on corn on our rooftops. Then, the plan was to substitute regular corn for corn treated with a controlled product designed to make the birds who eat it act erratically, which in turn would disrupt the flocks and get many of the birds to relocate. Think of how you’d react to an obnoxious and drunk human—not a lot of fun to be around. Same general principle would apply to our feathered friends, according to the experts.
There isn’t and hasn’t been a plan to purposely kill or poison the bird population, but we do understand a relatively small percentage of the pigeons and grackles who eat the treated corn (5-15%)—particularly those who gorge on large amounts of treated corn or who are already sick—could die from it. (In the same way someone who drinks too much can die from alcohol poisoning).
In any case, the university has shelved the project and is taking additional time to make sure we are aware of and understand all the issues and concerns, and to continue to explore additional options. No additional corn has been put out; no treated corn was ever put out.
We’re still committed and working hard to maintain the cleanliness in the areas where the pigeons and grackles roost. In addition to being slippery, droppings can pose a health threat. The daily cleanings continue. The job seems to keep getting bigger.
Fortunately, the heavy rains this week helped wash the trees and ledges off, and the facilities team will keep at the controls of their pressure washers and sidewalk scrubbers. I’ll let you know more when I hear it.