Birds

1976: Battle of the Birds

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For three days starting on August 18, 1976, West St. Paul’s finest took part in a pitched battle to rid a neighborhood around Stryker Avenue of a terrible nuisance—birds.

The Problem

For three years, starlings and grackles roosted and gathered in a heavily wooded section of Stryker Avenue between Annapolis and Bernard before flying south for the winter.

Residents complained about the noise and droppings, which splattered roofs, cars, and sometimes residents themselves.

Their complaints prompted the city to act.

The Solution

Richard Wetzel of the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended a three-day campaign involving police and firefighters to root out the birds. Here’s how it was described in the West St. Paul Centennial:

“At about 8 p.m., when the birds flew into the area for night roosting the fun began. … A cannon, mounted on a truck, cut loose with a deafening boom, while heavily armed police fanned out into the neighborhood launching exploding rockets with shotguns and pistols. A record of a wounded grackle was played over and over again … with speakers on two police cars amplifying the sound for better results. The screeching, mind-boggling cries sounded, as City Manager Tom Hoban said, ‘like hogs being slaughtered.’ The fire trucks stood by to hose down the trees in case the noise didn’t frighten away the birds, or in case the rockets started a fire. … Over the officers’ heads, feathers flew in every direction.”

West St. Paul Centennial

The account says that all the neighbors came out to watch and they “hooted with laughter.”

The barrage against the birds apparently worked, as they hadn’t been “quite as much of a problem since the infamous nights of noise.” Wetzel, the wild life expert, hoped the birds would relocate to woods along the Mississippi River or at least in a neighboring city.

Presumably this incident was left off the city’s recent Bird City USA application.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks for the interesting story. Easy for a bird lover like me to love birds when they are not overwhelming my neighborhood trees, roofs and lawns! One comment: the photo you included is of a flock of pigeons (who get blamed too often!).

    1. Yeah, I just grabbed a stock photo of birds. It’d be amazing if someone had historic photos of this incident.

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