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.