Amid the music emanating from behind the counter of the Gaucho Cafe in the University Center, small, fluttering onlookers in the rafters make music of their own, watching intently for the perfect opportunity to swoop on a tasty snack.
Common house sparrows have long made themselves at home in the UCen, where they have been free to fly in and out. However, some would like to see these feathered friends banished for good, and the UCen administration is taking action against the transients.
Anyone who has sat down for a meal or has rushed through the UCen on his or her way to class has had some kind of experience, whether positive or negative, with the small brown and white sparrow.
Jacob Massey, a first-year business and global studies major, works at Wendy’s on the lower level of the UCen and said the birds fly in through the doors that are left open during the day and have usually flown the coop by the time evening begins to fall. He said the birds contribute to a pleasant working atmosphere and he does not mind their presence.
“I’ve never seen birds inside a building before so it was different and surprising at first,” Massey said.
The UCen administration begs to differ. Gary Lawrence, associate director of the UCen, said they are trying to do all they can to get rid of the birds.
“We have tried using large butterfly type nets,” Lawrence said. “We also removed two live plants that attracted birds, and have installed screens on all of the operable windows in the Hub and on the second floor.”
Their attempts to remove the birds take place after operating hours. According to Lawrence, administrators have also removed nests from the overhead rafters and they have blocked off the areas where the birds perch using the nets.
In addition, the administration also attempts to keep the exterior doors closed as much as possible to prevent the birds from getting in and remaining there for the rest of the day.
Some students have had negative experiences with the birds. First-year Spanish and education major Amara Schoenberg said the winged warblers are a dangerous nuisance to those students who just want to get to class without being attacked by dipping, low-flying birds.
“One afternoon I was walking through the UCen and one of those tiny birds flew right into my face and attacked me with its wings and talons,” Schoenberg said. “Luckily I didn’t bleed.”
According to Schoenberg, the birds should not be present in a public place designed for people.
“I don’t mind birds when they’re in cages, but when they are flying around in a place where they’re not supposed to be, it’s bothersome,” Schoenberg said. “They are out of control.”
FedEx and Kinko’s assistant manager Dorise Jorgenson said she has not received complaints from customers about the perching birds, and they do not interfere with business.
According to Jorgenson, the staff once attempted to lure the birds out of the building with a trail of crumbs – but that plan failed.
“They just stopped at the door as soon as they were done eating the food and flew back up to where they sit,” Jorgenson said.
Sara Thomatis, an undeclared first year, said she thinks the fact that the birds coexist with the students and staff in the UCen shows a remarkable environmental adaptation with regards to both species.
“I think it’s amazing how animals in the environment around us can adapt to all the changes we impose upon them,” Thomatis said.
Thomatis said she thinks the birds may have had to look for shelter in the UCen because of human effects upon the nearby natural environment.
“If it’s so bothersome for a species to rely on human structures for survival, then perhaps we should think twice about the consequences our actions have on the environment,” Thomatis said.