BANGOR, Maine — Just about every morning, a Drew Lane resident starts his day by tossing scoops of bird feed onto his driveway and front yard. The pigeons love it. The neighbors don’t.
The City Council on May 29 passed an ordinance that prohibits people from feeding birds or other animals in a way that creates a “disturbance or unsanitary condition.”
The ban does not prevent people from having bird feeders on their property or tossing pieces of bread to ducks, but rather aims to prevent feeding practices that attract large numbers of animals that create unsafe or unsanitary conditions, according to Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas.
“The sheer number of birds located around Drew Lane at some times is pretty out of control,” Nicklas said.
Fines for violating the ordinance start at $50 with the first offense before increasing to $100 and $200 for subsequent offenses within a year.
Residents in the Drew Lane neighborhood, which consists of a small cluster of residential streets off Stillwater Avenue, say they’re thrilled with the city’s attempts to halt a problem they say they’ve been dealing with for the past 7 or 8 years.
Steve Coleman of Carrie Court lives close to the man who feeds the birds. When he dumps out the seed in the morning, hundreds of pigeons show up to gorge, perching on power lines and neighboring rooftops.
“My deck gets nailed all the time,” said Coleman, who is legally blind and said he’s always worried about what he might step in when he leaves his home or goes to sit on his porch. Other residents have to clean their cars frequently to prevent the droppings from damaging the paint, he said.
Coleman calls himself a “bird guy” — explaining that he leads bird walks at Fields Pond Audubon Center where he trains people to identify songbirds based on their calls — but there’s a limit, he said.
Neighbors worry about health hazards associated with having large concentrations of birds. Bird feces can carry dozens of diseases. Pigeons and other wild birds can carrying cryptococcosis, a fungal disease which can be transmitted to humans through bird droppings, according the Centers for Disease Control. Some suffer more from cryptococcosis than others, with symptoms varying from lung, brain and spinal cord disease to headaches, fever, cough, shortness of breath and night sweats.
John Bruneel of Drew Lane said he and other neighbors repeatedly asked the man to stop feeding the birds, but he refused, sometimes leading to “verbal exchanges.”
“We’ve just been very frustrated, it’s a very helpless feeling,” Coleman said.
A message left Saturday at the home of the man who feeds the birds was not immediately returned.
Bruneel and Coleman spoke at a Government Operations Committee meeting in May to ask the city to do something about the bird problem. Both said they’re pleased with the new ordinance.
“I’m just glad the city stepped in and did something about this,” Bruneel said.
Coleman said he looks forward to having his happy, friendly neighborhood return to normal, “without this issue hanging over our heads.”