Environment: The Bird Plague

Radford, Va. (pop. 11,596), might have qualified as the noisiest place in America last week. Blank-loaded shotguns roared, a carbide cannon thundered, and a mobile loudspeaker shrilled the panicky distress cry of the starling. The point was to scare a flock of some 150,000 stubborn starlings out of town. It was a measure born of desperation—a sort of real-life reply to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

The starlings had found Radford a most enticing spot. They could feast on the grain that local farmers set out to feed their cattle, and they discovered an especially thick two-acre bosque of warm pines in...

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