US bird invasion brings real-life horror

2013-02-18 07:26
Birds avoid sick members of their own species, scientists have said.

Birds avoid sick members of their own species, scientists have said. (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Nashville - Millions of birds have descended on a small Kentucky city this year, fouling the landscape, scaring pets and raising the risk for disease in a real-life version of Alfred Hitchcock's horror film, The Birds.

The blackbirds and European starlings blacken the sky of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, before roosting at dusk, turn the landscape white with bird poop, and the disease they carry can kill a dog and sicken humans.

"I have seen them come in, and there are enough that if the sun is just right, they'll cloud your vision of the sun," said Hopkinsville-Christian County historian William Turner. "I estimate there are millions of them."

David Chiles, president of the Little River Audubon Society, said the fact that migratory flocks are roosting in the city rather than flying further south is tied to climate warming.

"The weather, the climate plays a big role," said Chiles, the bird enthusiast who also teaches biology at Hopkinsville High School.

"They somehow establish a roost south of where the ground is frozen solid," he explained. "They are ground feeders, feeding on leftover crops and insects. If the fields are frozen solid, they can't feed."

Defensive measures

Although the birds have not turned on humans as in the classic 1963 Hitchcock movie featuring vicious attacks on people in a small northern California town, the city has taken defensive measures.

The south-central Kentucky city of 35 000 people, about an hour north of Nashville, has hired a pest control company to get rid of the interlopers.

Henry Jako, general manager of McGee Pest Control, said crews use air cannons and "bird-bangers" - similar to bottle rocket fireworks aimed into the trees where the birds roost.

The artillery attacks are disturbing some locals as well as the birds.

"It scares my little dog to death," said Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble. "I don't know what it does other than move the birds from one tree to the next."

Jako said that in the worst-affected neighbourhoods, multiple cannons and consecutive blasts are being used to keep the birds moving.

When they fly away, the birds leave behind a huge volume of excrement.

"I've got an apple tree that has almost turned white," Tribble said. "Any vehicle parked outside is covered up. I guess it's good for folks that have car washes."

Health hazard


Historian Turner said that the blackbird invasion this year is the worst he's witnessed since the late 1970s, when Hopkinsville suffered a similar bird blitz.

"We aren't seeing the temperatures go as low as zero like we used to. Now we very often don't even see temperatures in the teens around here," Jako said. "If the birds are comfortable, they are going to stay around," he added.

The birds also pose a serious health hazard because their droppings can carry a fungal disease called histoplasmosis, which can cause lung infections and symptoms similar to pneumonia, according to the Centres for Disease Control website.

"It does become a matter of public health," said Dr Wade Northington, director of the Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Centre, an animal disease diagnostic facility.

"The blackbirds are able to harbour this organism... so it can be shed in their droppings and it becomes a problem, especially where they tend to roost in extremely high numbers," he said.

It can cause illness in humans, and is particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems or respiratory ailments, he said. It can be fatal for canines.

Turner, who suffered from histoplasmosis decades ago after excavating family property that once held a chicken coop, describes the disease as debilitating. "I didn't have any energy, and I didn't have much appetite and lost weight," he said.

The droppings contaminate the soil, making it unhealthy for years. It is a worry for dog owners, said Northington.

"It can be very expensive and take months to get it arrested and get an animal cured from it," Northington said. "The disease is very prevalent in our area."
Read more on:    birds  |  environment
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Sun energy rises over Karoo

2014-10-01 21:08
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Wine
 

You HAVE to see this MTB Tsunami Fip!

You might not know what a Tsunami Flip is, but just watching this will turn your eyes into saucers. Check out this first-ever MTB Tsunami Flip in contest here.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Bear Grylls’ top 10 things kids should do outdoors
Mountain unicycling – say WHAT?
Top tips to ensure you’re running right
Stand-up paddle boarding a great workout

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

20% off Afrikaans books, music and DVDs. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Hot gaming titles – available for pre-order!

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition, Far Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto 5 and more. Pre-order now!

Get a free eBook

Buy 3 eBooks and get the cheapest FREE. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Power and leadership are emphasized today. It is important to strategize and delegate well otherwise you may end up with too much...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.