Los Banos takes next step in solving downtown bird problem

The city is taking fresh aim at the pesky bird problem plaguing downtown.

Public Works Director Mark Fachin announced the next salvo at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

City staff has looked at a number of solutions over the past several years to deal with the mess the large flocks of roosting birds have been making in downtown, but Fachin said cleanup is expensive, and the problem never is solved.

Power-washing bird droppings from sidewalks can be done only periodically due to limited staff and budget. Last year, it was done four times, not quite enough for the city or downtown area merchants.

“A lot of these solutions are expensive,” he said. He also said poison is not an option, nor is shooting the birds.

Last year the city used a noise that sounded like a predator but had to move it every so often throughout the day. It also didn’t work very well.

“Every solution we had besides exterminating them,” he said, “they would come back after a certain time.”

The city recently ordered two pistol launchers that will shoot blanks into the air and will sound similar to a shotgun blast. This method is also similar to what some Central Valley cities, such as Turlock, have been doing. According to Fachin, the method was used in Turlock for a week, three times a day. In most circumstances, the birds left for a month to about a month and a half. “The labor to do it is a lot less than what we are spending now,” he said.

Fachin will be letting the public know a schedule of when the shots will be fired because they will be loud. “It will sound like a minor war for about 15 minutes when we do this,” he said. “So it’s very important that we do get it out there. It seems to be the only positive way without mass extermination that we can do at this point.”

The city wants to solve the problem by getting rid of the birds and not the trees in which the birds roost.

In other business, Fachin provided an update on brand-new benches found in a warehouse.

The city has been placing them in and around downtown, along with matching trash receptacles.

Fachin said 10 benches and five trash receptacles that were in storage are now set up. Nine of the benches were placed in front of stores that did not have any and one was placed at the Los Banos Community Center. All trash receptacles were kept in the downtown area.

“We are all done with the project at this time,” Fachin said, “it makes it a lot more pedestrian friendly.”