Fireworks for the birds

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

With the participants armed, watches synchronized and everyone issued portable two-way radios, it could have been a scene out of a caper movie. Instead the plan was a bit of bird roosting aversion therapy.

More than 25 volunteers gathered Wednesday evening at the Roosevelt County Courthouse for a briefing from former Eastern New Mexico University biology professor Tony Gennaro on his plan to rid the courthouse of the thousands of great-tailed grackles that have recently taken up roost in the trees around the square.

Gennaro passed out a string of 50 firecrackers, a radio and a cigarette to each volunteer then explained his plan. After everyone had their firecrackers in place in a plastic bucket festooned with streamers and hung from a tree around the courthouse, he said he would give the signal over the radio to light the firecrackers and send the birds skyward.

“If they come back we’re going to re-issue and do it again,” Gennaro said. “I’m not responsible if you start smoking again,” cracked Gennaro of the cigarettes he passed out as lighters.

Gennaro’s biggest concern was the well-lit area around the courthouse. He said that with lots of lights the birds might find their way back to the trees.

He said it took a couple of nights with the firecrackers and buckets to resolve a similar problem at ENMU a few years ago. In that case he was able to have all the lights turned off in the area beforehand, however.

“Last Monday, I couldn’t believe it,” Roosevelt County commission chairman Dennis Lopez said. “It looked like a Hitchcock movie out here. It’s a mess.”

Lopez, who was one of the volunteer firecracker lighters, said that the county has had to regularly have inmates on work release at the courthouse to clean up the bird droppings. He said that their time could be used elsewhere in the community if the birds could be sent packing.

Some of those same inmates were present to help with the fireworks Wednesday. They said they were appreciative of Gennaro supplying them with cigarettes.

The volley didn’t go off simultaneously, but it resulted in an immediate flight of birds from the grounds. Smaller groups of birds tried to come back a short time later but Gennaro’s volunteers quickly sent them on their way with another fireworks display. Pigeons roosting along the north side of the courthouse seemed unfazed by the commotion, however.

Did the plan work?

Gennaro says “we’ll see.” He has his volunteers ready to return for a few more nights if necessary.