Bye-bye, blackbirds’

Nature lovers often refer to their “fine, feathered friends.” Most Fort Worth lovers agree with the “feathered” part, but Cowtown folks say that some birds are neither fine nor friends. Their strong feelings are registered annually, October through March, when city officials estimate that up to two million grackles swoop in to set up housekeeping. Thousands of flustered Fort Worthians then grab brooms daily to sweep up. Oh, they try to be stoic with shoulder shrugs about how ‘birds will be birds.’ They even retell lame bird jokes, many of them ending with: ‘for some people, they sing’ *** This is not a new problem. The pesky, squawky, messy creatures have plagued parks, neighborhoods and downtown for years. The city has spent thousands of dollars to yank out the grackles’ welcome mat, and nothing has worked. Some of the efforts have been, uh, ‘bird- brained,’ including use of spotlights, pyrotechnics and a concoction called ‘grape fog’ to shoo them away. ‘ Many of us trudge through life in a fog; so do grackles’ *** The rules are changing, and the new ones have teeth in them, or, more correctly, beaks. Responding to pleas from Fort Worth leaders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has new regulations in place. The Feds have authorized trained falconers to be compensated for services rendered in the eradication of undesirable birds with birds of prey. Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief is leading the ‘hallelujahs.’ The masses hope that no grackle is left behind’ *** Partners in Nighthawk Bird Control have a pair of trained hawks, and plan to turn them loose in downtown late at night, when at least one of them is hungry. ‘ They’ll only take down a grackle or two, but the rest of the birds will take note of the flying carnivores, and the word’ll travel fast in ‘bird- dom.’ Nighthawk trainers believe the unwelcome guests will fly out as quickly as they flew in, looking for new places to roost, perhaps in cities where they don’t know the new rules’ *** Some may say this approach is really doing nothing more than sending the problem on down the road. Perhaps so. But Fort Worth folks figure that it’s somebody else’s turn to deal with it, or at least share the pain. (Maybe Dallas’) Shooing them away is really nothing new. Isn’t this the way we usually deal with down-and-out transients’ We give ’em a few bucks, and send ’em on down the road’ *** My hope is that the trained birds don’t hear what happened in Fort Worth nearly 40 years ago, when two vaunted falcons from the Air Force Academy were scheduled to appear at a big event. Before the birds performed, they were stolen. They were never found, and the thieves were never apprehended’ *** Maybe it’s better just to stick with recent history. During the Armed Forces Bowl game played in Fort Worth back in December, the Air Force Academy Falcons dominated the University of California in the stats before the Golden Bears eked out a 42-36 win. Off the playing field, two of the Academy’s 13 trained falcons’the feathered ones’displayed their skills, wowing to the utmost’ *** Please don’t think me to be ‘anti-bird.’ But I join Fort Worthians in being ‘anti-grackle.’ I’m generally in favor of birds. In days of yore, movie trips were brightened with bird cartoons. Remember Tweety and the trademark line, ‘I ‘taut’ I ‘taw’ a ‘puddy-tat’ Earlier, those clever magpies, Heckle and Jeckle, were favorites. More recently, I was captivated by the story of a duck taken on as a good-luck mascot by the legendary football team at Masonic Home in the early ’30s.’ Jim Dent’s “Twelve Mighty Orphans” was a great read’ *** The duck showed up one day at practice, and the youngsters begged Coach ‘Rusty’ Russell to let them keep the bird. ‘Okay, as long as we’re winning,’ he answered. Practice after practice, game after game, the duck was always there. Late in the season, however, the ‘Mighty Mites’ finally lost a game. Noting the duck’s absence at practice the next day, Coach Russell inquired what had happened. ‘After the game last night, we ate him,’ the players admitted’ Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: Phone: 817-447-3872. Website:

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