Rome enlists Texan falcons to tackle problem of starling droppings

Cars, streets and the odd pedestrian have been showered with faeces

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The Independent Online

Rome is hoping five Texan falcons will be able scare away the thousands of starlings that are showering cars, streets, and the odd pedestrian with their droppings.

Along the banks of the River Tiber, in particular, where the huge flocks congregate in the trees, stationary cars and bikes are often covered in their faeces. Roads are left slippery and treacherous.

So serious is the problem that the city’s authorities are resorting to the falcons to deter the starlings from massing in the city, to which they are attracted as a safe place to roost. 

Sabrina Alfonsi, president of Rome’s central municipality, said a three-day trial of the birds of prey proved successful, so she is now looking to continue with the deterrent.

Not everyone is convinced that the five falcons will be sufficient to remove the guano menace, however. An alternative might be to play recordings of starling distress calls from speakers in order to scare off the flocks, but such plans have been delayed by Italy’s complicated method of organising public contracts. 

But few doubt that something has to be done. In 2008 a Ryanair Boeing 737 passenger jet was forced to make an emergency landing at the city’s Ciampino airport after hitting a flock of starlings, with scores of the birds being sucked into one of the plane’s engines.