February 20th, 2013 by

By Michelle Werts

One of the many benefits that urban forests provide is habitat for wildlife. But in keeping true to the stereotype of overcrowded cities, it appears that a few communities around the country are experiencing wildlife overpopulation — to somewhat detrimental results.

Red-winged blackbirds

Red-winged blackbirds. Credit: Bob Webster/Flickr

In Kentucky, the residents of Hopkinsville are suffering a bird invasion. Millions of blackbirds and European starlings have set up roost in the Kentucky community of 35,000, creating a literal black cloud in the sky throughout the day. Local experts tell Reuters that the inundation is most likely due to the unseasonably warm winter in Kentucky, where the ground hasn’t really frozen this year. When the ground freezes, the birds’ preferred diet of leftover crops and insects isn’t available, and they move further south.

Beyond the annoyance factor of sharing their community with millions of birds, there is a health concern as well, as blackbird droppings can carry a fungal disease called histoplasmosis. This disease can lead to lung infections, lethargy and other health issues.

The city has resorted to air cannons to try to scare the birds southward.

A thousand miles away, Denver International Airport is experiencing a different kind of wildlife invasion: It’s hunting wabbits. The Associated Press reports that federal wildlife workers are removing 100 rabbits from the airport area each month. Why? The rabbits are eating the spark plug cables and other wiring in parked cars.

The airport reports that in 2012 only three claims were submitted for car damage due to rodents or rabbits, but parking companies in the area are still investing in better fencing and roosts for hawks and eagles to help with their bunny problem.

Both of these stories help illustrate how delicate the balance is when humans, nature and animals intersect. Trees, shrubs, flowers and the like make us healthy and happier in our urban environs, but they are also prime homes for our wildlife friends. While urban forests can provide critical habitat for wildlife, it is important to continue planning and managing for a healthy environment for all its inhabitants through effective wildlife and urban forests management plans.