You can hear the problem before you see it. And then the smell hits you.
A northwest Arlington neighborhood near the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Gaye Lane is inundated by a large flock of egrets that is not nearly as loud as it is foul-smelling.
“They are very messy. Everything is white,” said neighbor Frank Clements, who noted that the egrets have flocked to their area in years past. “It’s an explosion [this year]. There’s just a ton of them where before there were only a few.”
The egrets, a protected species, have taken a particular liking to the mature live oak trees on the property of 76-year-old Norma Crader, who bought her house in January when the migratory birds were elsewhere.
“It’s a beautiful neighborhood. It’s just too bad that the birds have moved in,” she said with a laugh.
The egrets began to arrive en masse in February and have formed what is known as a rookery — a communal nesting ground — in the trees.
According to Crader and her stepdaughter, Kayla Patton, the seller’s agent never mentioned birds until after the property was sold. And according to Crader’s realtor the egrets were only mentioned in passing; at no point was there word of “hundreds of large birds.”
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“It’s horrible,” Patton said. “I just feel so bad for my stepmom because she just moved here. We had no idea.”
“I wasn’t prepared for all of this,” Crader said. “I have to wear [a hat] to protect myself. Otherwise I would get bombarded.”
Crader acknowledged that if she had known about the birds she would not have bought the house.
Arlington real estate attorney Michael Farah thinks Crader has a legal case to make. He believes the previous owners should have disclosed the egret situation.
"It's an obvious condition on the property and it obviously affects your ability to live in the house or at least live there peacefully," Farah said. "They could have failed to say something that they should have."
Farah offered Crader some free advice and his own opinion.
"I wouldn't want to live here!" he said.
The realtors for both the buyer and seller told NBC5 they did not know about this problem before the sale. The previous homeowners passed away and their children sold the house. The seller's agent is reaching out to them. NBC5 will continue following any developments.
Because of their protected status, the egrets “may not be killed, taken from the nest, picked up or possessed for any reason, and their feathers may not be possessed or sold,” according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Egrets became a federally protected species in the early 20th Century when they had been hunted nearly to extinction. At the time, their large feathers were highly sought after for use in fashion, according to the National Audubon Society. Incidentally, the egret is the symbol of Audubon Society.
In addition to their foul-smelling droppings, the egrets rain frogs and fish down onto the homes of Norma Crader and her neighbors in failed attempts to feed their young. And several times a day, birds themselves will come crashing down to the ground below.
The City of Arlington has obtained a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to collect the dead egrets, according to Ray Rentschler, Field Operations Administrator for Arlington Animal Services. The injured birds are collected by Animal Services as well, but they are taken to the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Hutchins. The staff at the licensed rehabilitation facility then attempt to nurse the injured egrets back to health.
The egrets are expected to roost in the trees until October.
NBC5's Alice Barr contributed to this report.