Orchard Road: Less of a bird street?

David Ee Straits Times 15 Oct 12;

THESE residents just refuse to be evicted. Nothing much, it seems, has prevented the mynahs of Orchard Road from calling it home.

It was reported in The Sunday Times yesterday that the latest attempt at ridding the shopping strip of the mynahs - deploying a hawk - has failed.

The mynahs have been the bane of retailers and shoppers there since 2008, drawing complaints about their droppings and the noise they make.

Ecologists and bird control specialists said the authorities might want to consider using sound waves, water or nets to disperse and trap the birds.

Removing the trees with dense crowns where the mynahs roost in the evenings may be another way.

Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, co-founder of the Bird Ecology Study Group, favours replacing the trees with other varieties that have sparser canopies that do not attract roosting birds.

"If they did it carefully in phases, stage by stage, it would be a solution in the long term," he said.

But that would be "an extreme solution", said Nature Society president Shawn Lum.

Replacing the existing trees may solve the mynah problem, he said, but would lessen shade cover for pedestrians and "completely change the character of Orchard Road". He asked: "Is that what we want?"

Hoisting nets high up between the trees to trap the mynahs would work, said ecologist Yong Ding Li. But he cautioned that if the stakes needed to prop the nets up were to fall, they may pose a danger to pedestrians.

Bird control firm Mastermark said sound waves would not effectively deter the birds, while a sprinkler system would inconvenience passers-by.

None of these methods is a silver bullet, said Mastermark manager Gloria Ngoi. A combination of methods to "displace and relocate the birds would be a very good option", she added.

Dr Lum, though, questioned whether the mynahs should be considered a problem at all, unless they pose a public health risk.

"Where else in the world can you go where you've got these modern, sleek buildings, and wild birds roosting outside?" he asked.

"To me, it adds to the glamour of Orchard Road."

When contacted, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said it has commissioned a study of the mynah population here, which started in June. Findings from the study will determine the next move, said a spokesman.