Officials hope fireworks deal with bird problem

Alisa Boswell

The fireworks set off Monday and Tuesday night in downtown were not celebration but an attempt to eradicate of a common plague in eastern New Mexico — great-tailed grackles.

Portales resident and biologist Tony Gennaro and other residents approached city officials about scaring the birds off with fireworks.

Several businesses on the square have suffered from pungent bird droppings and slippery sidewalks.

The great-tailed grackle, a medium-sized black bird native to North and South America.

“First of all, I think the constant excrement of the grackle on a hard surface like a sidewalk makes for a slippery situation,” Gennaro said. “Plus, water on it causes an odorous situation. It’s slippery in nature; it creates an odor; and a lot of times, birds like that frighten people. Those were the things we were worried about.”

David Hunton, owner of Hunton Insurance Agency on the corner of South Avenue A and Second Street, said his customers continually complain about the excrement-covered sidewalk in front of his building.

“All of our customers that come in comment on it, the smell and just the way it looks all the way around,” Hunton said. “And I wouldn’t think it would be healthy for people to be walking through. We clean around it and three days later, it’s already back the way it was.”

For two nights, fireworks were hung from tree branches and set them off, hoping the sound and flash reflecting off the sidewalk and buildings would scare the birds away.

“As it stands now, we have enough fireworks to be able to do this for several weeks,” Portales Public Works Director John DeSha said. “We just want to scare the birds off. We don’t want to hurt them. We already tried repellent and that didn’t work. We are going to explore as many options as possible to help people out. What we may do is just make a concentrated effort over the next few weeks if they come back.”

DeSha said he plans to check the trees around the square each night for the next two nights to see if the birds return. If they do, another firework battle will begin, continuing every night until the birds are discouraged from staying.

Gennaro said grackles have been a problem previously in other parts of Portales, but this year was the first time in four years they were a problem on the town square.

“I had the same situation around the administration building at ENMU and I did the same thing and the third night, they were all gone,” Gennaro said. “If the city continues the same thing, I think they’ll leave. It will eventually discourage them this year. When they get a whole summer’s relaxation, they may be back next year.”