To Clean Up NY Subway Stations, an Unlikely Tool: Bird Calls


trainConsidering the setting, the sound is difficult to place: a song of the wild, evoking, perhaps, a disturbed rooster accompanied by a small chirping bird.

Every few minutes, the noises resume, an unlikely soundtrack at the entrance to Roosevelt Island subway station.

The bird calls come courtesy of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but the recorded sound is not the latest example of an underground art or music project. It is actually a weapon against trespassing pigeons.

The authority has had a problem with pigeons entering the station, and leaving their feathers, and more unsightly evidence, on and under the walls. The agency had used netting, similar to chicken wire, beneath the ceiling to try to keep the pigeons at bay.

But in early December, the authority tried a different tack: a $375 bird call system that releases distress and predator calls every 2 to 10 minutes. Since then, authority officials have focused on cleaning up the station and the negative memories many riders still hold of the unsightly entrance.

“There were feathers everywhere and there was a lot of poop,” Hugo Jaiguay, a 15-year-old Roosevelt Island resident, said as he sat in the station on a recent afternoon waiting for a local bus. “It got cleaner when they took out the wires. It’s fresher.”

Agency officials seemed pleased with the speaker system, designed by Bird-B-Gone, a company based in California. Kevin Ortiz, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman, said it had installed a similar system in the Pelham Bay Park Station in the Bronx but removed it after customers complained about the sound.

The authority decided to try the system on Roosevelt Island because its previous efforts did little to stem the number of complaints about pigeons and their droppings.

The agency chose the sound system, which Bird-B-Gone calls the “bird chase super sonic system,” over bird spikes or electric shock systems because it best fit the station’s architecture and it works in large open spaces.

Mr. Ortiz added that since the installation of the sound system, “there is a noticeable decrease in birds and droppings.”

According to Bird-B-Gone’s Web site, the company has advised the New York Yankees and the New York State Department of Transportation on their bird-control problems. An expert ornithologist who advises Bird-B-Gone runs a blog on the company’s Web site, offering solutions to various bird issues, like what to do when turkeys peck at a glass office building (shoo them off with a sprinkler system, called a scarecrow) and how best to remove roosting birds from an abandoned aircraft hangar (seal it up).

At the Roosevelt Island station, riders seemed relatively unimpressed with the authority’s new gadget.

As Darsheen Davis waited in the station on a recent afternoon and a pigeon fearlessly strutted by, she pointed to the white droppings that still streaked the station’s ceiling. She suffers from bronchial asthma and said the pigeon smell remains so strong it makes her dizzy every time she waits there.

“I don’t have anything against animals because I have nine pits,” Ms. Davis said, referring to her pit bulls. “You see all the feces up there. It’s not sanitary.”

Other riders are more concerned about the pigeons’ welfare.

Tashi Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist who lives on the island, recalls the first time she heard the “very disturbing” sounds in the station. For the past few months, she has been delivering bread and bagels for the pigeons because she fears that they are having trouble finding food during winter.

“It’s very sad for the birds. I don’t think the birds were taking any human space,” she said. “Why are they doing this? Leave them alone.”

Ms. Chodron’s friend John McCormick, who feeds the birds with her, using leftovers from his catering business, said he preferred the old method and pointed out that New Yorkers would always complain.

“The bird scare noises annoy me more,” he said.

“It’s New York. It’s going to cause something to somebody.”

{NY Times/ Newscenter}


  1. Those clowns who feed the birds at the station are the biggest cause of bringing the birds. They should be ticketed over and over, as it’s illigal


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