Tuesday night the Astoria City Council voted in favor of extending a noise permit to Columbia House Condominiums to allow the manager there to continue hazing starlings that have invaded the facility.
The use of an air horn to drive off the pesky birds has resulted in many complaints from neighboring residents who say the blasts are disturbing. A representative from Columbia House told the city council Tuesday that the starlings are a health hazard, among other things, and residents of the condos are concerned for their safety. He said that they have tried mounting strong lights where the hundreds of birds nest and that only worked for a short time after which the flocks returned. The residents rejected a proposal to poison the birds over concern that the chemicals used might harm other animals and pollute the river environment.
They say using loud noises, such as the air horns is an effective, humanitarian method that is only used for those times when the starlings are present. They pointed out that the birds are no long nesting there but fear that they will come back. Because of the complaints about the noise from the public City Manager Paul Benoit revoked a special permit that allowed the use of the air horns.
After listening to the staff talk about the complaints and after getting assurances from Columbia House that the air horns will not be used late night to drive off the birds the council voted to allow a 60 day permit with automatic 30 day extensions. The horns will only be used if the birds return and just briefly to frighten them away. The European starling is one of the most common nuisance birds in the United States. Introduced to the U.S. in 1891, the 50 original pairs have ballooned into a national population estimated at 200 million.
Starlings have a black, speckled coloration and a very short tail. They prefer urban or suburban habitats where man-made structures give them ample nesting and roosting sites. They are mainly insectivorous, but will also feed on small fruits, such as cherries and grapes, as well as apples, which they peck holes in and hollow out. They are among the worst nuisance species in North America, disrupting native birds, destroying fruit, interfering with air travel and roosting on city blocks
Starlings carry a host of diseases, many transferrable to livestock, but several that can infect humans. Five bacterial diseases, two fungal diseases, four protozoan diseases, and six viral diseases may potentially be transmitted to humans and other animals by starlings