Attack of the grackles

HOUSTON The city has tried unsuccessfully to move them out. Everything from water hoses to fake owls. But this week, they're trying something a lot meaner in letting loose one of their biggest enemies.

"They come in before sunset everyday like clockwork," said restaurant manager Rafael de Orbegozo.

He isn't talking about the customers at his restaurant, Mingalone. He's talking about the birds.

"They come in massive quantities and they settle in for the evening and a couple hours later you won't hear a drop from them," said de Orbegozo.

But you'll see plenty of drops from them. The birds are called grackles and they congregate in trees by the thousands, leaving behind a distinct calling card.

"They're just a nuisance in the sense that they pollute the area with bird droppings," said Brian Watson with the City of Houston.

The City of Fort Worth tried to get rid of them with loud noises. Here in Houston, some places like the Medical Center have put nets in trees to discourage the birds from landing. And downtown they've tried water hoses and rubber snakes, even a fake owl.

"After about ten minutes or so, they were sitting on the owl's shoulder," said Watson.

The grackles like areas with trees, buildings to block the wind, and water, where they easily find food. Downtown Houston has all of those elements, but the city is still fighting.

"We're trying to do something about moving the birds," said Watson.

So now the city is trying birds of prey to scare away the grackles. The falconer is here on a trial basis for the cost of his transportation and lodging. If it works, he could be flying in a lot more in future.

The falconer will try again Friday night with the bird of prey in hopes of lessening the grackle population. If it works, the city may use him on a more regular basis.

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