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I-5 Interstate Bridge: Starlings Hazing
What is this?
Starting Thursday, Jan. 17 and continuing through Saturday, March 16, 2013 Oregon Department of Transportation bridge crews plan to use propane orchard cannons to direct starlings off the lift spans of the Interstate Bridges.
 
Each fall and winter, of thousands of starlings migrate to the Portland/Vancouver area. Many of the flocks roost on the Interstate Bridges—particularly the lift spans—in the fall and winter. Bird droppings coat the bridges, the catwalks, the roadway, vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. The mess is unhealthy, unsafe and unsightly. This year the cannons will operate a total of 12 days for about two hours each day in the late afternoon and early evening.
 
 

Frequently Asked Questions
 
When will the cannons operate? 
Between Thursday, Jan. 17 and Saturday, March 16, the cannons will be used a total of 12 days for about two hours each day in the late afternoon and early evening. The cannons will not operate on holidays. The cannon firing will end approximately one hour after sunset.
 
Why do this?
Thousands of starlings migrate to the Portland/Vancouver area each fall. They roost on the bridges—particularly the lift spans—in the fall and winter. Bird droppings coat the bridges, the catwalks, the roadway, vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. The mess causes corrosion and damage to the bridge and is unhealthy, unsafe and unsightly for workers and bridge users.
 
How will the bird cannons work?
Propane orchard cannons were originally designed to disturb birds in apple orchards. They create a loud noise—the boom of an air cannon—to startle the birds. As noted above, ODOT will not fire the cannons every day, but instead will vary the days of cannon use based on the reactions of the birds. Employing this random schedule of cannon use prevents the birds to become accustomed to a regular pattern.   
 
One will be used to disturb the birds on all four tower sections— the parts of the bridge where crews spend the most time. In addition to the mounted cannons, the USDA will use handheld devices to distract the starlings. The handheld devices will target noise directly at the starlings. Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the bridges will hear the blasts, which could occur as often as once every 2-3 seconds.
 
What else have you tried?
During the past 25 years, maintenance crews have tried virtually everything that seemed even remotely reasonable to purge these pests: noisemakers, loud banging on the structure, chemical applications and sharp-edged moldings, to name just a few.
 
When will you know if there’s an effect?
In past years, we noticed an effect almost immediately—birds moved away from the lift spans and settled in nearby trees and on other parts of the bridges further away. This winter we have seen a dramatic reduction in starlings roosting on the Interstate Bridge. In past years approximately 30,000 starlings roosted on the Interstate Bridge. In 2012, ODOT counted 2,000 to 3,000 starlings roosting.
 
What’s the best result you can hope for?
We would prefer the birds move off the bridges completely. Realistically, though, significantly reduced numbers on the lift spans is ODOT’s goal. Obviously the lift spans play a crucial role for both Interstate 5 traffic and marine traffic. Ensuring the bridges operate smoothly and that ODOT personnel are able to work in a safe and healthy environment is our paramount concern.   
 
Are there warning signs?
Yes, warning signs will be posted at all entrances to the sidewalks to notify bicyclists and pedestrians of the noise.

ODOT Contact Information
Kimberly Dinwiddie, ODOT Community Affairs, 503-731-8281, kimberly.dinwiddie@odot.state.or.us