Turns Out Starlings Are Both Good and Bad for Roman Tourism

Birds tend to leave unpleasant things in their wake

Starlings over Rome
Flight of starlings in the Eur sky.
Mimmo Frassineti/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

What happens when one of the things that attracts visitors to a given city is also something that causes the government of that city a substantial headache? In the case of Rome, that very tension is currently playing out when it comes to something unexpected: birds. Specifically, starlings — which are known for forming stunning murmurations in the sky over the city, which can make for a memorable sight for people visiting.

That’s the upside. The downside will be apparent to anyone familiar with what sizable flocks of birds leave in their wake. The patterns that the birds form in the air can be breathtaking; the fecal matter that they leave on the ground, however, is less beloved.

That’s led to some efforts within Rome to attempt to relocate the flocks of starlings, which generally remain in the area in and around the city for several months in winter. A recent Washington Post article explored the contrast between the stunning visuals in the area and the challenging reality they pose to the city’s infrastructure.

The article described the way municipal workers have attempted to force the birds to relocate to regions where they can do less damage. The plan involves lots of protective gear and recordings of starling distress calls — the thinking being that starlings won’t congregate if they believe one of their number is in danger. Apparently it’s gotten the starlings to stay away from the center of Rome — a small but significant victory.

This also seems like a step up from some of the other solutions mentioned in the article, which include irritating fog, poison and increasing the number of falcons in the region. It’s a measured response to a lingering issue.


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