Palmerston North authorities are weighing options to curb the bird poo problem

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Palmerston North has a poo problem thanks to the spectacular daily flight of thousands of starlings, which swoop down on the town center to spend the night.

Starlings spend the night in the middle of town, leaving their footprints below.
Photo: RNZ/Jimmy Ellingham

Their droppings rain down on the sidewalk and road below – hitting parked cars and pedestrians – and measures to discourage them from The Square, such as bird scarers, seem to have no effect.

Catherine Russ, a downtown business owner, lived for many years on The Square and was unimpressed with the shrill sounds of the bird scarers.

Customers often mentioned the poop covering the floor.

“They mention the smell. That would be the main thing that’s mentioned.

“If it rains all the bird poo gets wet and it really makes the area smell awful, but we’re not here at night. That’s when the cars really get bombed.”

Center of Palmerston North.

As night falls in Palmerston North, those trees in The Square fill with starlings.
Photo: RNZ/Jimmy Ellingham

Russ, founder of clothing brand Pork Chop Hill, said she resents people parking under trees at night, not knowing they were going to be cleaned up.

“The main problem with poo on cars is when everyone comes to park and go to dine in restaurants.

“If they’re not from here, it’s a bad surprise.”

Russ suggested pruning the trees to keep them away from the trails.

Others in the city center whom RNZ spoke to had similar ideas, including building shelters on pathways and car parks.

No one wanted to see the city’s green canopy cut off, with many saying it would deprive people of much-needed summer shade.

Five years ago the city council paid about $50,000 for bird scarers, but now the birds seemed to ignore them.

Bird poo from Palmerston North.

The city council regularly cleans up bird droppings from the downtown trails.
Photo: RNZ/Jimmy Ellingham

Kathy Dever-Tod, the council’s group leader for parks and logistics, said bird poo was regularly splashed in water on the sidewalk.

Other measures to address the issue were being considered, including moving the trails away from trees as part of CBD improvements.

“We will continue to try to disturb the birds with the bird scarers.

“The other things we’re looking at are the water sprinklers and the things that really discourage them from being in the trees that are close to the edge of The Square.”

There was no easy solution, however.

Dever-Tod said introducing birds such as hawks to scare away starlings was unsustainable and could create other problems.

“What we have discovered over time with the measures we have put in place is that they are only short term. The birds quickly realize that it is not really a threat to them.”

Birds in the center of Palmerston North.

Birds fly spectacularly – unless you’re parked below or pass by at the wrong time.
Photo: RNZ/Jimmy Ellingham

Seven years ago the council cut down trees on nearby Broadway Avenue so people wouldn’t be deterred from parking there.

These trees were only a few decades old and not as popular as the ones in The Square.

But the feces could cause people to turn away from businesses.

Gadgets Xperts technician Amol Das said if people couldn’t park outside this store, they were unlikely to want to park across the road under the trees .

“If they park on the other side, it’s raining bird shit and the cars are full of them.”

He said little could be done to fix the problem, as he didn’t want to see the trees cut down.

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