ROME — This is the time of year in the Eternal City when flocks of some of the four million migratory starlings darken the sky, circling the iconic monuments in often dazzling formations.
Caught in the just the right light, the sight can be Rome at its most enchanting. That is, until, the birds release their bowels. Particularly near the Tiber river when dusk sets in, some have described it as a "hailstorm."
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Every year along the Tiber, in public gardens and on tree-lined streets, says daily paper La Stampa, the city becomes smothered with layers of bird excrement and mud. The rains that arrive don't necessarily clean the poop, but rather make it slippery, and raise the risk for accidents.
The starlings choose to roost in the plane trees that line the river en route to warmer climes in Africa. They also favor the city's street lighting, which is believed to make them feel more protected from predatory birds.
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Until now Rome's city council had hired people to prune the trees, as well as walk under them as they play recordings of the screeching noises starlings make when the predatory falcons approach.
Over Ponte Sant'Angelo. Photo by RaSeLaSeD - Il Pinguino via Flickr
Piazza Venezia and monument to King Vittorio Emmanuele. Photo by thinkpipes via Flickr
As soon as dusk falls, the areas around the river are best to be avoided. Parked cars become targets, moped drivers and cyclists too.
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Earlier this year cuts had been announced to the 100,000 euro budget for mitigating the birds' impact. Corriere della Sera writes that this year residents and cyclists would have to take to the streets with pots and pans and make their own racket, as they did years ago, to scare the birds off.
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This moped got off lightly. Photo by kmillard92 via Flickr
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But last week it was announced that these funds have now been reinstated, according to La Repubblica, and the “distress call” system will be back up and running within a few days at dusk. But until then, say an extra little prayer anytime you look up.