Yishun residents have big bird problem
For the last eight years, Yishun resident Amy Low, 55, has not had a good night's sleep.
The hundreds of birds that roost in the trees outside her sixth-storey flat chirp noisily, even at 3am.
Residents there have lived with the noise for about 10 years. They also often find their freshly-washed clothes soiled by bird droppings, have to pick up feathers from their flats and even have to avoid walking past open-air carparks.
You would have to be a bit of a nature lover to be happy living at Blocks 107 to 109, Yishun Ring Road.
There are many trees facing these blocks and they are home to hundreds of barn swallows.
Residents have complained about the noise and bird droppings to the Nee Soon Town Council, but the town council told The New Paper it was not an easy problem to solve.
The town council has been battling the birds for years, but no solution has been found because the birds have proven to be very resilient.
TNP visited the area both in the morning and in the evening two weeks ago.
The birds fly off at about 7am daily and return at about 7pm. While it can be a majestic sight, seeing them fly in formation, the noise they make is anything but soothing for some residents.
Madam Low, a housewife, said in Mandarin: "My sleep is often disturbed by the chirping. It's really annoying. Every time a car goes by at night, the birds would make noise."
Yishun Ring Road has been home to hundreds of these migratory birds for more than 10 years.
Madam Ng Soo, 63, a housewife who lives on the seventh storey of Block 108, said in Mandarin: "I'm most worried about the bird droppings. It's really quite disgusting. My clothes are hanging right in front of the tree, so I never feel clean."
A large tree grows right up to Madam Soo's kitchen windows, so close that she claims she is almost able to touch the leaves before they are pruned.
She said: "I can always see a lot of white stuff on the leaves and branches. I'm worried the wind may blow all the germs into my home, so I often close the windows, even when I'm cooking. It gets very hot."
Madam Soo has lived in her three-room flat for more than 30 years.
Because the birds leave droppings on the parapet, she washes her parapet at least three times a week.
Ms Clara Tan, 33, a housewife who lives on the fourth storey of Block 101, said: "I think it (the bird droppings) are very unhygienic, especially for my kids."
Ms Tan said that she regularly finds birds droppings on her laundry that she hangs outside.
"Not only is it tiring and time-consuming to re-wash my clothes, my utilities bill also increases." she said.
However, there are residents who appreciate being able to live so close to nature.
Said Mr Han Koh Juan, who lives on the eighth storey of Block 107: "I don't think it's a very big issue. Why can't we learn to live in harmony with them?"
The 76-year-old has been living in his four-room flat for more than 30 years.
"We humans were the ones who took away their homes first - it's our fault," he added.
Mr Han also said that living with the birds does have its benefits.
"When it's about to rain, the birds start making noise, so we know it's time to bring in our clothes hanging outside," he said.
Mr Suhaimi, 57, a retiree who lives on the seventh storey of Block 107, agreed.
He said: "The birds are like my alarm clock. Every evening at about 7pm, they'll start chirping and I know it's time for my Muslim prayers.
"I think the best solution is for us to learn to live with the birds and appreciate them."
Not only is it tiring and time-consuming to re-wash my clothes, my utilities bill also increases.
- Ms Clara Tan, 33, a housewife who lives on the fourth storey of Block 101
Life span: Eight to 20 years
Size: 24-25 cm
Diet: Food scraps, insects, and fruits
Reproductive cycle: Two to five eggs
Colour of eggs: Blue and unmarked
Life span: Up to six years
Diet: Food scraps and debris. They also eat small mammals, lizards, frogs, fish, crabs, insects, nectar and fruits
Reproductive cycle: Three to five eggs
Colour of eggs: Blue or pale green, with brown or grey speckles, spots and streaks
- FILE PHOTOS: ST, TNP, LIANHE WANBAO
Life span: Three to five years
Diet: Generally prefer large, single insects rather than swarms of smaller prey
Reproductive cycle: Four to five eggs
Colour of eggs: White speckled and dark
Orchard's bird issue: Irritating but shoppers don't complain
Orchard Road is another place where hundreds of birds, mostly Javan mynahs, reside.
The birds return to their trees in the evenings, creating a din. Dried bird droppings are visible on the pavements along Orchard Road every morning.
Mr Chew Chang Sern , 67, who works at Mandarin Orchard Singapore, said: "The pavements are cleaned daily, so the bird droppings don't cause many problems."
However, Ms Huda Kosai, who works in a store at 313@Somerset, finds the birds irritating.
She said: "They will disrupt shoppers... One bird even pooped on me."
Mr Steven Goh, executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association, said: "Although there has been regular cleaning, the bird population here is really huge, so it's difficult.
"But there have been no complaints from shoppers, so business-wise, there isn't much impact."
Not easy repelling birds: Town Council
The Nee Soon Town Council has been trying various methods to handle the bird situation, but without much success.
A town council spokesman said there have been ongoing trials with repellents, but the birds adapt and return to roost. Pruning has not been effective either.
They found that temporarily displaced birds tend to move to a different area, sometimes even closer to residential buildings.
They will roost there temporarily before returning to the original tree.
The spokesman added: "Given our tropical climate, the trees grow back fairly quickly and in the long run, (pruning) is not a cost-effective and sustainable solution."
About 20 years ago, the town council tried to disperse the birds using a hot gel applied on the tree branches, which would cause the birds to feel a hot sensation when they perch.
Although it was effective in the first week, the birds returned a week later.
It was later found that the birds had laid twigs and leaves on top of these branches before stepping on them.
In 2007, the town council used 25 to 30 repellent-filled canisters per tree to repel the birds.
Again, it was effective for only one week.
Ms Julienne Kee, a staff biologist at bird-control specialist company Mastermark, said: "Birds in general are pretty smart. They adapt very well, especially urban pest birds like mynahs and sparrows."
Ms Gloria Ngoi, the business development manger at Mastermark, said: "If bird spikes are placed in such a way where the birds have room to land, they will add twigs around the spikes to eventually make it their nest."
TOO MUCH FOOD
An Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore spokesman said that birds may be attracted to roost, forage or nest at a particular location for a variety of reasons such as easy availability and abundance of food and shelter.
The town council will continue to explore different options.
Its spokesman said: "We continue to trial different solutions with the various agencies.
"We are also looking to engage with animal-welfare groups to identify feasible, cost-effective solutions."