American falcons used to scare Rome starlings

Anyone who's made a recent visit to Rome will have noticed that what was once a beautiful feature of the Roman skyline, has in the last while become a public menace - starlings.

Starlings have become so numerous in Rome that American falcons have been enlisted to scare them

Starlings have become so numerous in Rome that American falcons have been enlisted to scare them Image by Stu Younger / CC BY 2.0

The migratory birds famous for flying in beautifully shaped murmurs in the rose-tinted sunset have become particularly numerous over the past few months, prompting authorities to despair at the bird faeces - or guano - that is befouling monuments, pavements, parked cars and even passersby.

“The biggest problem is the guano, there’s the risk the streets become very slippery,” Sabrina Alfonsi, president of the central Rome municipality where the birds roost told The Guardian.

The birds have made Rome a particular home as they are attracted to the light in the city as well as to the insects that feed on the olive trees in the surrounding countryside.

The problem has reached such a scale, and the volume of complaints had become such a problem, that municipal authorities decided to employ five American falcons from Texas to scare the starlings into migrating somewhere else out of the city.

The move has been a little controversial, with animal rights activists claiming it's a useless as well as an inhumane way of getting rid of them, given that starlings use their beautiful formations in part to confuse prey. Their suggested method is to play recordings of distressed starlings to scare off a proportion of the birds.

But the municipal authorities in Rome are believed to be happy with the result, and the three-day trial with falcons may be extended.

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