With nothing to scare them away, starlings are definitely leaving their mark on Rome, this year. The chirping black birds flock from northern Europe to Italy’s capital, which they prefer because of its warm Mediterranean climate. They’ve been spending their winters here for a long time, but until now, authorities have been able to keep them from covering the ancient capital in a disgusting layer of droppings. This year, financial cuts have left locals at the mercy of these tiny but numerous guano bombers.
The first documented time when starlings overwintered in Rome was in 1926. If at first they settled on the outskirts of the city, little by little they moved further into it, drawn by the heat radiating from the buildings. More than 1,5 million starlings are now nesting in Italy’s capital city and doing their business pretty much everywhere. The birds, which arrive in Rome in two waves, one in October and the other in January, have the habit of leaving the city at daybreak to fly over to the olive groves in the city suburbs. After spending the entire day eating olives, they fly back to the city, where they leave their greasy, stinky business on cars, buildings, statues and streets. Because of the heavy bird droppings, the Lungotevere, one of Rome’s greenest boulevards, had to be closed because of the high risk of accidents not only for pedestrians, but also for vehicles.
The situation could be avoided up until now, as local authorities used different methods to keep the birds from nesting in the city. In the past, they employed giant balloons resembling falcons that would scare the starlings away, but all the balloons did was get tangled in the tram lines. Modern and more efficient anti-starlings measures include pruning the trees and broadcasting loud falcon cries, but since local authorities can’t afford to invest in these measures anymore, locals and tourists alike have to protect themselves from the bird droppings the old-fashioned way – opening their umbrellas and running for cover. People also try to scare away the birds by making loud noises with pots and pans, but the method hasn’t been very efficient so far.
Source & Photos: Corriere Della Serra