Protected Egrets Concern Carrollton Neighborhood

By Jason Allen, CBS 11 News

CARROLLTON (CBSDFW.COM) – With bright white bodies and yellow tufts of feathers lifting from their heads, the egrets living in a tree canopy in a Carrollton neighborhood don’t look all that threatening.

But what started as a few nesting pairs has turned into a full-fledged take over that has now expanded onto parts of three blocks throughout the city.

“By late March it looked like a National Geographic special,” said resident Allyson Baughn. “You could come out and clap your hands and this huge flock of white birds would take off.”

The birds are loud, but what they’re leaving behind is what’s upsetting residents the most.

Nearly every surface on Chamberlain Drive is stained white or brown.

The paint on cars is damaged. Mailboxes are wrapped in plastic to protect them. Trees and turning white and flowerbeds are dying.

On Memorial Day afternoon, there were no barbecues and no one relaxing in front yards. The street, which smelled something like a chicken coop, was quiet.

“It’s not safe for us to be breathing it, walking on it, stepping in it,” said resident Maggie Powers.

Her friend Liz Brown has started going outside with an umbrella and plastic shoes.

It’s not clear exactly why the birds chose the neighborhood, but they prefer dense vegetation like the trees that line the street.

A small city lake is also just a few hundred yards away, serving as an easy food source.

One week ago dozens of residents went in front of the city council, begging for someone to just wash the streets or sidewalks.

But no help has come so far, and it may not come at all.

Egrets are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code.

Even just disturbing nests can lead to fine of $500 and six months in jail.

In 1998, the City of Carrollton was fined $70,000 for destroying an egret nesting area.

Residents said city officials have told them they fear that even cleaning the area could lead to fines for disturbing the birds.

Nesting season can last into September, and residents are dreading what three months of summer heat will do to the stench.

“I would like something set up with the city for future reference to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Baughn said.

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    There has to be a symbiotic relationship with these creatures. If the federal and state governments want to protect the birds but let their citizens suffer, then the government has to go . . . . and take the birds with you. Howz that for symbiosis?

  • RussP

    If besides the paltry $70,000 fine, the state had mandated Carrollton to restore the rookery they destroyed in the area of the new library, perhaps we wouldn’t be seeing this problem.

    • Ms. M

      I agree. If the original rookery had not been destroyed, this never would’ve happened. Time and again I see trees being cut down to build more and more buildings without regard to the wild animals living in the area. What is even more maddening is the fact that there may already be an empty building in the area and no one has the forethought that maybe they should use what is already available instead of continuing to destroy trees and displacing wildlife.

  • Protected Egrets Concern Carrollton Neighborhood — Me and the Chicks

    […] into a full-fledged egret takeover that has now expanded onto three blocks throughout the city. More from:… […]

  • Mr Black

    No city could tell me I had to live in all that poop. I’d be shooting those egrets and having myself roasted egret. Throw them on the grill.

  • Paula

    Three years ago my suburban backyard (a treeline area) was the nesting place of a large egret population (estimates close to 5000)! It was a nightmare, and I learned way more than I ever wanted to know about egrets.

    Their protection dates back to the early 1900s when their feathers were used for hats. Translation: No state or federal authority has bothered to update the laws in a LONG, LONG time. Result: These birds are now one of the most overpopulated groups represented, AND THEY ARE NOT NATIVE TO NORTH AMERICA. They originated in the African plains and were inadvertently transported.

    The “flock” will continue to grow in numbers as the summer goes on, and the birds will have multiple batches of baby birds which will die because the parents are not very involved in their care (this was explained to me by TX Parks and Wildlife and I watched it happen outside my back door). The dead baby birds will then create the perfect conditions for vast swarms of flies.

    The birds’ waste will coat and possible kill many trees. We had many that did not survive and had to be cut down. By high summer, the waste will smell like a vat of hot ammonia.

    The worst part is that after you have survived a very long summer of noise, stench, death and flies, you will be treated to the same thing the following year if you don’t take action next spring.

    Feel free to respond to my email if you would like more information. I truly know what you’re going through and wish there were better ways to control these overpopulated animals.

  • Reeper

    Very informative Paula, but you left out more important facts.
    Ergots are not Native to the area, same holds true of humans living in that area. They are overpopulated, yet so are humans which have over run where wild life once lived.
    Baby birds die through lack of care, same holds true of human babies along with directly killed by a parent and yes sometimes a fly problem.
    Trees die for many reasons and thrive if watered well with free fertilizer, not watered well they will die from too much fertilizer. Watering with a soaker hose does not disturb the birds.
    Others pointed out they destroyed a location they used so now their having to deal with a problem man created once again. Who used the location first, birds or man? Drive the birds away or drive man away?
    Solution is easy, build them a paradise to use for a breading area (which they once had) and few will decide to breed in your area. Animals have not over run your area, you have over run theirs. Nature does balance itself, mankind does not.

    • Paula

      Oh Reeper, before you judge my reaction, go spend a summer camping out with “nature” in Carrollton!

      My point is regarding control of an overpopulated species, not eradication. This would be true with any other species that is not on the endangered species list, and as I mentioned, this species is not even close to being endangered.

      The birds are migratory and believe me if you know Texas, you know there is PLENTY of open area for them to go! I live less than 1 mile from Lake Lavon and there are many square miles for them to “relocate”. In fact, we helped our egrets find a new spot the next spring. There needs to be more education given to preventing groups from roosting so they can be forced to move into a more satisfactory location.

      PS I don’t believe the earth is overpopulated with humans, but that’s another story entirely.

  • Reeper

    Richardson grew big time since 72. Expansion out this way shows how humans populated area’s once fields-homes for wildlife.
    My front porch has barn swallows raise young every year and they eat mosquito’s despite the mess. Car is parked under maple tree that has mistletoe like all the rest do due to birds. American pokeweed and sticker tree is also scattered on my place due to birds. Migration billions flock creating same thing except for not as long. Birds do create problems, but also prevent them. I would much rather birds eat West Nile mosquito than spray which cannot be done safely. I live with nature daily with coons, skunks, possums, deer, coyotes, and copperheads. At least you can’t catch rabies from birds. As for epidemic, grasshoppers reach that yearly around here.
    I can’t debate if their endangered, yet if you believe it take it up with your representatives with your proof. Carrolton should restored the rookery they tore up for a library and ask if they can clean in the heat of the day.
    This area use to be covered in horn toads, none exist now and I dearly miss them even though one bit me as a child.
    I’m not judging you, just pointing out a different mind set. You think birds should move and they think you should. Who’s been around longer, they date back to dino’s when man wasn’t here. Who destroyed the world and everything they touch, man. Just think of the profit you could make at cleanup time if you recycled what they left behind. Due to all the car fumes and heat in the summertime it’s not wise to be outside anyway.
    God (nature for non-believers) does work in mysterious ways, yet when they do you question it? Have you heard of people who’s homes reside on toxic waste dump sites (many years ago none where recorded). Your pest could be your salvation for all you know and yes I have a recipe for grasshopper stew if times get hard-yuk.

    • Paula

      I live with lots of wildlife around me and I love it, but a rookery of egrets is a very different story.

      There is no question that they are NOT NATIVE to Texas. And due to 100 years of protection, with no natural predators in the region, “nature” is out of balance!

      Would you live with 5000 fire ant piles in your backyard? How about 5000 copperheads or skunks? I bet you would consider other options!

      My point is that there are other options, and unless you are willing to experience an egret invasion in person for 5 months, you shouldn’t be commenting on how to handle it. It’s been my experience is that people who don’t experience it first-hand don’t have a clue what it means (like most things in life).

  • David R.

    I would cut the trees down after they leave this season. You will have to get the whole neighborhood involved. You can replant with small trees and hopefully the birds will have moved on.

  • Reeper

    I don’t have to live in a war zone to know what it is like. War is far more deadly of a problem so always be grateful for what you have as a problem since it could always be much worse. Yearly for the same time I have a grasshopper epidemic. Smaller waste, yet big destruction. Fire ants kept my tick-flea population down without chemicals being used, yet now without my intervention they are less in numbers.
    It does not take natural predators to keep most populations down, cats, dogs, hawks, gators, coyotes, bob cats, mountain lions, etc. all are good at doing that no matter if it’s native or not. You lack to mention natural wild predators have been killed off on purpose or indirectly, thus you end up with a so-called over population of something else. I do have native blood, if the Indians didn’t bring them here your fore fathers did.
    Your solution is to drive them off to be someone else’s problem? I DO think of others problems as being my own and no I would not want what is my problem to become that of others-care to have my hoppers or killer bees? If you moved them to a Texas Wildlife Park, I’m sure some wouldn’t want what they consider their playground messed up by wildlife either.
    So exactly where do you think these ergots should live that would make you and everyone happy? Seems they where happy where the new library was built and relocated when it was taken away.
    No I would not cut down my trees since electricity is to hi priced and my trees just got big enough to start saving me some on the electric bill. Gone you will breath more pollution and have added heat created by a pure asphalt jungle. Everything has a cause and effect, so think well before you act.
    Good solution-they have a home that will make everyone happy, bad solution-driving them off to become someone else’s problem. World problems are not solved by making only you happy, they are solved by making all sides and neighbors happy.

  • BirdBrain

    I love your thinking, Reeper!

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