Fort Worth Neighborhood Making Noise Over Egrets

Neighborhoods are working to scare off egrets as they begin to nest

A familiar feathered foe is starting to return to parts of North Texas.

Egrets are starting to nest, and several cities and neighborhoods taking action to scare them away.

Residents in Fort Worth's Tanglewood neighborhood, just west of Texas Christian University, have been working to scare off the protected birds for weeks, but they had to call in the city for extra help this week.

"It's an infestation is what it is," said James Burr, who sits in his front yard every night with an air horn.

When he sees the birds, he sounds the horn, and they usually scatter.

Longtime resident Pat Key joined the effort Wednesday night by banging together two pans.

"I smile and say, 'Get out of here, you blank birds," she said.

The city of Fort Worth is helping them wage their noisy war against the egret invasion. Each night, an animal control officer shows up with a loud air gun on the back of his pickup.

"Once they get started, you can lose the whole front yard pretty quick, so you've got to keep them moving," Burr said.

On Tuesday night, the Code Compliance Department utilized the city's propane cannon to chase off any egrets, herons and other federally protected species. The cannon is often used to chase away grackles from downtown Fort Worth.

It has an unmistakable sound when firing off every 30 seconds.

"About four blocks away, it sounds kind of like a shotgun," said Rick Shepherd, an egret committee member for the Tanglewood Neighborhood Association.

The cannon targeted a small green space area near Tanglewood Trail and Overton Park East on Tuesday that is around the corner from where egrets created a huge mess near three homes last year.

"Once they start nesting, they really start coming in," Shepherd said.

The birds leave droppings below their nest, covering streets, sidewalks and yards.

"Everything was coated like this," Shepherd said, referring to a single nest several blocks away. "The yards, the trees, the street."

Shepherd said yellow crown night herons are nesting above Glenwood Drive, and the droppings are evident below.

"This is nothing compared to what it would be like if you had a multispecies rookery with 100, 200 birds," he said.

Residents in Carrollton, who have dealt with the messy egrets for years, helped give a seminar to Fort Worth in the last few months.

Tanglewood residents have embraced the community effort to fight off the birds. Shepherd said they don't want to the hurt the birds, "just to keep them moving on -- hopefully to a wild area that's not residential."

Residents have regularly set up deterrents, such as balloons that look like owls, pie plates and metallic ribbons. One homeowner who lives where last year's rookery was located went to the costly effort of installing nets in all of his trees. Residents have also been out at dawn and dusk making noises to scare the birds, using pots and pans, air horns or throwing tennis balls before they nest.

But once egrets and herons nest, no one can harass or bother them under federal law, which leads to the messy droppings like those found on Tanglewood Trail last year.

While residents were having some success, this week they noticed even more birds, which is why the city brought in the propane cannon.

"The birds were coming in more number and seemed to be taking over the area, so the cannon was brought in for that purpose," Shepherd said.

The residents credit the city with helping formulate the plan, and the city credits the residents for taking preventive measures.

With all the noise Wednesday night, the birds circled but seemed to stay away. But nobody is ready to declare victory quite yet.

"When it's all over, we're going to close off the street and have a block party out here," Burr said.

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