Children 'forced to stay indoors' as pigeons plague Strabane street
An epidemic of pigeons in a Co Tyrone town is creating health and safety problems, locals have claimed.
In scenes reminiscent of Hitchcock's thriller The Birds, hundreds of pigeons have been flocking to houses on the Summerhill Court area of Strabane.
Branded "flying rats" by fed-up and frustrated locals, they come in huge numbers to rest on the rooftops, along the edge of the ridge tiles and on the overhead telephone wires.
When they fly off, they return just a few minutes later.
Anita McShane, whose business Giggles and Wiggles Childcare occupies two of the worst affected properties in the area, said the 77 children they look after cannot enjoy any outside play time because of the amount of bird droppings.
For the past three months she has been fighting a losing battle cleaning up after the messy birds.
Anita has now appealed to Derry and Strabane District Council's environmental services department to get rid of the pests.
She said: "I have been here for the past 15 years and this has never happened before. I don't know why these pigeons have decided to congregate here but they have and it is really having a bad effect on everyone.
"There are literally hundreds of pigeons landing on the roofs of the houses and it has been going on now since the end of the summer.
"At first I didn't really notice but then it was too many pigeons, too often, and the amount of droppings was disgusting.
"It has gotten so bad now I can't let the children we care for outside to play."
Anita said the pigeons are causing daily problems.
She added: "We wash down the concrete area at the back every other day but it is a never-ending task.
"It is so bad the staff have to take off their shoes because we can't have them carrying the droppings into the houses where the children are.
"We have a large grass area for the children to play outside, but we don't know how much of the droppings are on the grass, so they can't use that area at all."
Ms McShane contacted the local council to ask for help to get rid of the pigeons.
She continued: "I have contacted environmental services in the council but the only thing they said was, because it wasn't rats, there was nothing they could do.
"To me they are vermin, they are flying rats and they are dirty.
"They suggested we bring out a private company but to be honest, we are a small business with a lot of overheads and we don't have the money to bring in outside agents to deal with something that isn't our problem. I have put up hawk deterrents but the pigeons take no notice of them - in fact they land on them and beside them.
"I just don't understand why this is happening but the people living here just want it sorted."
Paul Gallagher, an independent councillor for Strabane, said he was shocked when he came out to the area after being contacted by Ms McShane.
"The number of pigeons roosting in this street really has to be seen to be believed and while I don't think anyone could explain why this is happening, the amount of droppings they are leaving makes this an environmental health issue.
"Young children being cared for by Anita and her staff are being affected in that they can't get outside so action needs to happen," he added.
A spokeswoman for Derry and Strabane District Council said it was aware of the problem and would investigate.
She said: "Given the extent of the problem and potential health risk the council's environmental team will investigate further and explore options as to how the situation can be best managed."