by Mike Sharkey
If you’ve ridden the Skyway it’s virtually impossible to not notice the horrific screeching sound that seems to happen about every 45 seconds.
At first, you think there must be several birds — probably pigeons — somewhere in the station that are either real happy or real upset.
A few minutes later, you realize that the birds are relentless.
After hearing the screeching several times, you discover that the noise is pretty rhythmic, it’s timed and it’s going to go on all day.
The fact is, there aren’t any pigeons roosting in the gallows of the Skyway stations, scattering feathers and droppings on innocent riders. And, it’s because of the screeching sound that is blasted throughout the Skyway’s eight stations.
“That is the bird of prey call,” said Joanne Kazmierski, the marketing and communication coordinator for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
Kazmierski explained that the sound is basically a warning to pigeons to stay out of the Skyway stations. While it may sound like a monotone, 10-second screech, there are actually two subtle, but different, sounds. One is a wounded pigeon and the other is a bird of prey.
“The first sound is of a pigeon and translated, it says, ‘I’m hurt.’ The second sound is of the other bird and it says, ‘I did it and you’re next,’” said Kazmierski, adding that the bird of prey isn’t a particular species.
While it sounds funny, the method is proving to be fairly effective at keeping the pigeons from roosting in the many prime spots within the ceilings of the Skyway stations. However, after a while the pigeons catch on to the trick.
“We have options,” said Kazmierski. “The pigeons get used to the sound. We just changed the sound.”
Kazmierski said JTA officials are working on a quieter way to keep the pigeons out of the stations. Riders have complained that the excessively loud screeching drowns out the computer-generated message that announces arrival times and destinations.
“We are looking at enacting another type of pigeon control system,” said Kazmierski.
JTA has hired a company appropriately called Fly Away to install an electronic device along the edges of all potential pigeon roosting areas in the stations. The device will emit a small electric charge to anything that comes in contact with it. The system is similar to one used by dog owners to keep their pets in the yard (eletrically-charged wires are buried in the ground along the edges of the yard. The dog wears a collar that reacts to the charge when the dog gets too close to the street or neighbor’s yard).
“All of the stations on the Northbank have it, but we are not using it,” said Kazmierski, assuring that the charge will in no way hurt the pigeons. “A purchase order is being written. It’s not something we budgeted for or earmarked funds for.”
She said the essentially silent system should be in place within the next few months.
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