MIDWEST CITY — It's not quite as scary as a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds,” but Midwest City officials are gearing up for an egret invasion this spring.
Several thousand egrets settled into a rookery near Reno and Post Road last spring, and they are expected to return when the weather begins to warm up. The birds were a nuisance to nearby homeowners who had to contend with the noise and smell of thousands of birds occupying a grove of trees near their homes.
Midwest City officials will ask the city council to approve $21,000 in overtime between March 18 and May 18 this year and another $1,625 for supplies to scare the birds away.
The egret is a migratory bird that is protected by federal law.
In order to get rid of them, animal control officers will use a bird cannon and screamers to scare them away. Bird cannons create a boom sound that scares them away. Screamers are similar to flare guns, but make a high pitch noise.
“This has become a quality-of-life issue for our residents who live near or on the same property as the rookeries,” city manager J. Guy Henson said. “We are striving to do all we can prior to the birds roosting in our neighborhoods so that our residents do not have to endure the inconvenience of having them so close.”
Time is important. Because of their federal protection status, once their rookery is established the birds cannot be disturbed.
“We have a very limited time to keep them from establishing their rookery because of their federal protection,” Midwest City animal welfare manager Charles Abney said. “We're usually out there 12 hours most days during that time.”
Abney said in years past the city has seen rookeries with as many as 25,000 birds. He expects if left unchecked more birds will nest there this spring than last. He said one of the worst aspects of their presence is the smell.
“You get that many birds flying in and out and it gets pretty noisy,” he said. “And the smell is so bad. It's nasty. The weak get kicked out of their nest and walk around until they die. That's their nature, and that adds to the smell problem.”
Abney said city workers may need to work seven days a week and up to 18 hours a day to keep the birds from establishing the rookery.
“It's a lot of long hours because you have to stay out there all day and make sure they don't get settled in,” he said. “You have to keep up the pressure on them.”