Once they move in, it’s virtually impossible to push them away. Significant amounts of excrement can cover city streets, sidewalks and cars, causing lasting property damage and foul odors. Some Texans arm themselves with pneumatic horns, using loud noises to prevent nesting.
What causes all the heckling every year? The arrival of egrets and herons in Texas, usually in February and March, can cause many headaches for owners, especially if migrating birds decide to build nests in their trees and establish “rookeries”, where egrets can linger until October.
In 14 and a half weeks, Cynthia Buchanan found out how long it took to keep egrets from nesting near her home in southwest Fort Worth. For four hours each night, she and other residents of Wedgwood South sat outside to “defend” their trees, keeping an eye out for large white birds and blasting horns to keep them from standing still.
“Once we started organizing our crews it actually started to feel like a war zone because there were horns and air sirens and all kinds of noises,” Buchanan said. “It definitely had an impact on my health. We had no family life; there was nothing we could do except the egrets.
Fort Worth, like many cities in North Texas, has spent years working with neighborhood associations to raise awareness of what the city can and cannot do to address issues caused by migratory birds. Egrets are federally protected, which means owners and municipal staff are prohibited from destroying nests after eggs have been laid.
No municipal tax funds can be spent on private property, but animal control staff can pick up dead or injured birds, clean up streets covered in bird droppings, and educate community members on how to prevent egrets from taking hold, according to Chris Lirette, the animal control supervisor.
In an interview earlier this year, Lirette said the problem started around 10 years ago, when egrets arrived in large numbers in the community of Tanglewood west of Fort Worth.
“Since then, it’s been about trying to prevent them from nesting anywhere in the neighborhoods,” Lirette said. “Our biggest thing is to educate people and try to make sure they take care of their trees, prune them and make sure they don’t have old nests in the trees.”
Residents want more information, prevention
Matt Maxwell, a CandleRidge resident who has become a go-to resource for neighbors concerned about egrets, said city officials were working “overtime” to keep birds from causing problems in neighborhoods. To show their support for animal control staff, Maxwell and other residents hosted an appreciation dinner in June.
“We don’t hate birds. We just don’t appreciate what they bring with them and we would like them to find another more suitable place in their life, ”said Maxwell. “We really can’t afford them living here.
The number of nests at CandleRidge has dropped significantly from 2020, when it looked like the egrets had decided the area was their new permanent nesting site, Maxwell said. Last year, the Fort Worth Code Compliance Service obtained a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that allows for increased “non-lethal methods” to displace the presence of pest birds, according to NBC DFW.
But the problem was not completely resolved, as a house in the western section of CandleRidge became the site of a massive colony or colony of breeding animals.
The house has been the scene of intense cleaning efforts by city crews, who come at least three times a week to remove droppings and dead birds, according to Anita Handy, who lives nearby.
After attending a meeting of his homeowners association in CandleRidge, Handy realized that many residents came with different sets of information on how to prevent egrets from taking hold and what city authorities and federal can do to fix the problem.
“I saw so much frustration from neighbors who couldn’t understand it and just didn’t know why (animal control) couldn’t come and cut the tree, clean it up and take it away,” he said. Handy said. “There were people who didn’t understand why others were making so much noise and disturbing their dogs and their sleep, but there was a point in that.”
Rather than “reinventing the wheel,” she reached out to the office of newly elected District 6 Councilor Jared Williams, who held a town hall on the egrets Thursday night at 6 p.m. with animal control staff from the code compliance and environmental services.
“We can do something proactive, not reactive, and make sure this problem can be mitigated,” said Kendyll Locke, Williams district manager. “Sadly, egrets are nearing the end of their migratory season, but we can certainly use it as a learning experience… to make sure it doesn’t escalate into a major problem for this one household.”
What city residents can do to prevent the invasion of egrets
Public knowledge of egrets in Fort Worth is very patchy, according to Handy and Buchanan. Residents often call all city departments with similar questions because they don’t know where to turn for answers, Handy said.
“If we could channel them all to one point, I know it would be so much more effective,” she said. “With City Hall, I just want to see if we can communicate so that we can be better served by the staff there and they don’t have to answer the same questions over and over again.”
Homeowners associations also send their own advice to residents looking for resources to manage egrets. This year, CandleRidge’s “battle plan” advised neighbors to cut down trees to reduce the canopy by 30%, put shiny streamers or odd-looking balloons in the trees, add sprinklers. water in the upper branches and use noisy devices such as air cannons crested away.
Locke sees opportunities for better communication and coordination between city staff and neighborhood leaders, as well as the possibility of establishing a permanent bird sanctuary and colony using land obtained through the open space conservation program. from the city.
“Obviously we’re not going to be able to move every egret through Fort Worth, but how do we capitalize on what we have? Locke said. “Open Space could play a very important role in this conversation, not only with egrets but with other migratory animals.”
Maxwell was encouraged by the efforts in his neighborhood to prevent egrets from nesting. But he’s concerned about the CandleRidge home which has become a breeding ground for migratory birds this year, and hopes Williams and city staff can find a way to help the owner avoid any health consequences from the droppings of the people. birds.
Animal control staff also plan to introduce new technology next year, including high-tech drones that can spot birds and eggs using infrared cameras, according to Maxwell. This kind of effort is needed to prevent the adverse consequences of egret breeding in residential areas, he said.
“They burn your grass, they burn your trees, they burn your shrubs,” Maxwell said. “We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars per house and it’s up to you to get it fixed… I don’t wish that on anyone.”