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Flocks of camera crews arrived in town Thursday to cover the city’s bird problem that many residents didn’t even know existed.
The large group of birds — reported by residents as “tens of thousands” — are roosting nightly in a wooded area of Jericho Road, just outside of downtown La Grange.
Now, national media typically wouldn’t be interested in a large bird flock. But a down-to-earth, middle-aged couple shooting off a sound cannon to scare them away? Definitely.
Enter Billy and Darlene Armes. The Armes live on Duncan Avenue and decided a few weeks ago that it is high time for the birds to take flight.
Darlene said the birds started roosting in La Grange around Thanksgiving, making noise all night long and covering everything in droppings.
And there’s a smell, she said, that won’t go away.
She called Mayor Bill Lammlein about two weeks ago, who pointed her to the state department of agriculture. The department loaned the Armes two sound cannons that they fire twice a day to scare off the birds, in hopes the flock will become annoyed and leave.
Lammlein said a similarly-sized flock used to roost in an area near Westport Road and I-265 but disappeared recently and could possibly be the same flock now in La Grange.
An ornithologist told Lammlein the flock is about 80 percent starlings, along with blackbirds and robins.
And while Lammlein knows the birds are a problem, he’s surprised at the attention the story received.
At least five reporters spent multiple days in La Grange, and one network sent a satellite truck from Atlanta.
“What did that cost for 40 seconds of television?” he wonders.
Lammlein said the birds could be a tourism boost — people from Louisville have already been driving in asking where to find the birds, he said.
If nothing else, it is keeping La Grange top-of-mind, said Karen Eldridge, owner of Karen’s Book Barn and Java Stop.
The story isn’t just attracting bird watchers, though.
A Minnesota-based Halloween visual effects company is even offering cash prizes for the best bird video filmed in La Grange.
Jon Hyers Visual Effects specializes in video projections and the company sees an opportunity to create Alfred Hitchock-esque scenery using local footage.
But area residents are ready to see the birds gone.
In addition to the noise and mess, residents are worried about their health.
But Chad Lynch, public information officer for the Oldham County Health Department, said health officials don’t see the birds as a health concern.
Histoplasmosis, the most common bird-related disease, only spreads in dry conditions and droppings need to accumulate for several years before becoming a threat, he said.
The disease is caused by inhaling spores from a fungi found year-round in the soil. It is also found in dried bird droppings, but wet conditions prevent the spores from becoming airborne.
Histoplasmosis affects the lungs and has pneumonia-like symptoms — fever, chest pain, non-productive cough and joint pain, Lynch said. Anyone who has histoplasmosis-like symptoms should consult their doctor.
The health department has received no reports of histoplasmosis, he said.
If the birds remain in the area, residents should attempt to prevent droppings from accumulating and from being tracked inside.
Droppings can be washed off with a hose, he said, but not a pressure washer — the high pressure will blow spores into the air.
Residents should also leave shoes outside so spores are not carried inside the home. Pets can also track in spores, so owners may want to clean their paws before bringing them inside.
Infants, young children and elderly people are more susceptible to the disease, as are people with compromised immune systems. Lynch said the department is gathering data and hopes to find out why the birds have chosen the area to roost.
The health department will be distributing information in the affected area about health concerns and Lynch said the department is available to answer questions or concerns.
Meanwhile, Lammlein said his office is receiving dozens of suggestions daily from people across the country suggesting ways to send the flock packing.
The top suggestion on The Oldham Era’s Facebook page? Blackbird pie.