Date of this Version
During autumn 2003, several thousand European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) began roosting on exposed I-beams in a newly constructed, decorative glass canopy that covered the passenger pick-up area at the terminal building for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Ohio. The use of lethal control or conventional dispersal techniques, such as pyrotechnics and fire hoses, were not feasible in the airport terminal area. The design and aesthetics of the structure precluded the use of netting and other exclusion materials. In January 2004, an attempt was made to disperse the birds using recorded predator and distress calls broadcast from speakers installed in the structure. This technique failed to disperse the birds. In February 2004, we developed a technique using compressed air to physically and audibly harass the birds. We used a trailer-mounted commercial air compressor producing 185 cubic feet per minute of air at 100 pounds per square inch pressure and a 20-foot long, 1-inch diameter PVC pipe attached to the outlet hose. One person slowly (< 5 mph) drove a pick-up truck through the airport terminal at dusk while the second person sat on a bench in the truck bed and directed the compressed air from the pipe into the canopy to harass starlings attempting to enter the roost site. After 5 consecutive nights of compressed-air harassment, virtually no starlings attempted to roost in the canopy. Once familiar with the physical effects of the compressed air, the birds dispersed at the sound of the air. Only occasional harassment at dusk was needed through the remainder of the winter to keep the canopy free of starlings. Similar harassment with the compressor was conducted successfully in autumn 2004 with the addition of a modified leaf blower, wooden clappers, and laser. In conclusion, we found compressed air to be a safe, unobtrusive, and effective method for dispersing starlings from an urban roost site. This technique would likely be applicable for other urban-roosting species such as crows, house sparrows, and blackbirds.