AUSTIN, Texas — They're waiting for you at the gas station, outside the grocery store and in parking lots across the city. And it's not just one or two. They travel en mass, sometimes by the thousands.
They've gotten a bad rap in the movies and, at times, they appear downright aggressive.
"Grackles? They're crazy. They've definitely flown right by my face," one Austinite told KVUE.
But grackles, a type of blackbird, aren't all that scary to Austin Morin.
"We deal with grackles," he said.
Morin is the regional manager for Urban Bird Services. His job – and for one day, our job – is to make sure these migratory travelers don’t spend too much time in Austin as they make their way across Texas.
"How far does this laser go?" I asked.
"The lasers do not hurt them at all. And we're just going to help them with that extra push to send them south or north, depending on the season," Morin said.
You may be wondering what problems grackles pose. For one, they’re bad for business. The Downtown Austin Alliance uses Urban Bird Services to keep patios and storefronts free and clear from the birds' ... business.
"They're using the restroom everywhere. And it's a lot of power washing. It smells and looks nasty, and it's just an ugly view," Morin said.
At Seventh Street and Interstate 35, we spotted our targets.
"Aim for those two trees right there. Right there, yeah. And they go for the one right behind it. There you go," Morin instructed me.
Awareness is key to this job.
"So, if you're going to point, just make sure you point higher just because there's vehicles under the tree. You don't want to point into somebody's eyes," Morin said.
Steering clear of people, planes and cars is a necessity.
"Watch your head. Oh, my gosh, my luck. It's going to relieve itself right here. My luck," I shouted.
And if lasers just aren’t doing the trick, it’s time to break out the slapsticks. But this is no laughing matter – at least for the birds.
"We pretty much slap and wake them up and we ... continue using our laser," Morin said.
True technicians also study and understand grackle patterns and habits. While I became familiar with some of their tools...
"This just moves the birds, but we have other proprietary methods we use to abate the birds," Morin said. "Our company, I mean, we're very effective at what we do and we could clear out a whole city in two days to a week."
Working with Morin, I felt productive. If this TV gig doesn't work out, I may have found my new "caw-ling."
Grackles are roosting, or resting, at dusk and dawn. So you'll spot the yellow-vested Urban Bird Services technicians out at night or super early in the morning.
Fun fact: the busiest time of year for grackles is between October and February.
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