Kentucky town 'invaded by birds'
A flock of blackbirds searches for trees to perch on in the town on Hopkinsville, Kentucky, earlier this week. Photograph: Harrison McClary/Reuters
Millions of birds have descended on a small Kentucky town this winter, fouling the landscape, scaring pets and raising the risk for disease in a real-life version of Alfred Hitchcock's horror film, The Birds.
The blackbirds and European starlings blacken the sky of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, before roosting at dusk. Locals claim they are turning the landscape white with bird poop and the disease they carry can kill a dog and sicken humans.
"I have seen them come in, and there are enough that if the sun is just right, they'll cloud your vision of the sun," said Hopkinsville-Christian County historian William Turner. "I estimate there are millions of them."
David Chiles, president of the Little River Audubon Society, said the fact that migratory flocks are roosting in the city rather than flying further south is tied to climate warming.
"The weather, the climate plays a big role," said Mr Chiles, the bird enthusiast who also teaches biology at Hopkinsville High School.
"They somehow establish a roost south of where the ground is frozen solid," he explained. "They are ground feeders, feeding on leftover crops and insects. If the fields are frozen solid, they can't feed."
Although the birds have not turned on humans as in the classic 1963 Hitchcock movie featuring vicious attacks on people in a small northern California town, the town has taken defensive measures.
The south-central Kentucky city of 35,000 people, about an hour north of Nashville, has hired a pest control company to get rid of the interlopers.
Henry Jako, general manager of McGee Pest Control, said crews use air cannons and "bird-bangers" - similar to rocket fireworks aimed into the trees where the birds roost.
The artillery attacks are disturbing some locals as well as the birds.
"It scares my little dog to death," said Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble. "I don't know what it does other than move the birds from one tree to the next."
Mr Jako said that in the worst-affected neighbourhoods, multiple cannons and consecutive blasts are being used to keep the birds moving.
When they fly away, the birds leave behind a huge volume of excrement.