Rome's bird-busters: who else you gonna call?
By Robin Pomeroy
ROME (Reuters) - Dressed from head to toe in a protective white suit and face mask, Fabrizio Zani is paid to prevent Rome's birds from getting a peaceful night's sleep.
As millions of starlings dart above the Vatican, Zani and a dozen colleagues prepare an ear-splitting racket to try to keep away the creatures which descend on Rome each autumn from northern Europe.
With a flick of a switch, a shrill sound -- to the human ear somewhere between a rusty barn door opening and fingernails dragging down a blackboard -- blasts out.
It is a recording of the starlings' own distress call, amplified hundreds of times.
In the confusion that follows it's impossible to tell if the birds are actually bothered by the row. But people hurry away, looking back in incomprehension, grimacing at the birds' stench, or shielding themselves with umbrellas from bird droppings.
"We use a different cry each day," said Giovanni Albarella, coordinator of the starling squad run by the Italian League for the Protection of Birds (Lipu) which runs the scheme and has recorded a dozen different bird cries.
"It's all about fooling them," he told Reuters. "The trick is to make them think they are in danger."
Rome is not alone in its battle. London has used hawks to actually kill pigeons in Trafalgar Square, while in New York's Times Square authorities also used a noise-making device to scare away birds in 2006. Continued...