America the Messy Yard Police State
Birds on Mill Ave violate Tempe messy yard lawsI am sure this violates the Tempe messy yard laws. Why haven't the Tempe messy yard cops shut down the people that own these trees on Mill Avenue????
Ousting birds calls for some creativity
Keeping birds out of Mill Avenue's 100 towering ficus trees has proven problematic for Tempe's arborist, Steve Amelotte.
He started to address the problem in March using "helpful" suggestions from sympathetic pest-control workers, other arborists and residents from towns all over the U.S. People had all sorts of ideas on how to get grackles and starlings to take their squawking and, um, bathroom business elsewhere.
A woman from Florida proposed hanging pink flamingos in the trees.
A man from Iowa said if you keep the birds up all night with the long, skinny "clacker" balloons used at sporting events, they will take off looking for quiet.
Amelotte tried that after he got a pair of clackers from a Suns playoff game.
"I went out under the trees and go clack, clack, clack," he said, chuckling. "They flew away all right, but they came back to see what the noise was."
Amelotte also has been following a third suggestion: broadcasting the shrieks of an angry bird. The sound comes from four sonic machines programmed to play a bird chirping distress calls. It's supposed to tell flocks that the space is taken.
Since then he has taken more methodical steps, too. Amelotte had the trees washed so they didn't feel lived in. Workers used high-pressure hoses to rid the branches and leaves of bird droppings in September. Then they used 800 gallons of a non-toxic mixture that's referred to as "wet water" that clings to the bark.
"When those birds get up on those little branches, they are slippery, and hopefully it's uncomfortable," Amelotte said.
Branches were cut back by about 25 percent so there are fewer places for birds to roost.
And last month city workers sprayed the trees again with a fruity mixture. This time they used a water spray that contains a Concord grape extract that is supposed to make the birds' food taste bad but won't harm them.
The goal was to keep the birds from coming back. They usually settle here every year in early October.
Overall, Tempe has spent about $1,500 trying to rid downtown of birds. It's a justifiable cost, Amelotte said.
"I guess we figure better than having them leave their messes on people," he said.
It's working, to a certain extent. "There are still more birds than I would like," Amelotte said.
But he's going to keep trying, even if it does turn him into a bit of a Wile E. Coyote.
"The bottom line is I need to have people happy with my downtown," Amelotte said. "I'm just hoping this is a case where a combination of all of these crazy tactics are going to be effective eventually."