Starlings causing problems in Berryville

Posted: February 7, 2013

The Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE — Town Manager Keith Dalton said Berryville is apparently the “Capistrano of Virginia” as far as starlings are concerned.

Like the famed swallows of that California mission town, these starlings keep returning to the northwestern part of town, despite the local government’s attempts to run them out.

“We’ve been harassing them a bit,” Dalton said Wednesday, “But we haven’t been particularly successful.”

So far, the birds continue to return to the same areas.

Town Police Chief Neal White met with representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week in an attempt to find a way to discourage the birds from roosting in evergreen trees in the area. Some have even taken up shelter in hedges, despite the threat of cats and other predators.

White said a huge flock, estimated between 400 and 500 birds, moved into the town limits because the temperature in an urban area like Berryville is a bit warmer than more rural places.

“They are not feeding here,” Dalton said, but only arrive in the evenings for shelter.

Residents, however, aren’t happy with the noise the birds make as they settle in for the night, or the excessive amount of droppings they leave behind, especially on vehicles.

The birds should disperse on their own, when the overnight temperatures reach 40 to 50 degrees, Dalton said. But that could be some time off.

Experts have suggested using a recording of a starling in “distress” to deter the roosters.

In 2004, Berryville had a similar situation, but with a bigger bird.

Vultures took up residence in trees on South Buckmarsh and South Church streets in February of that year, and the Police Department was called out to fire off warning shots to try to move the birds out of town.

About 70 of the federally protected vultures were creating a messy situation on the two streets.

The pesky starlings are not native to North America, Dalton said. They were purposely introduced to New York City in 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin, who felt the new world should have all the creatures mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com