Target: Rome

Millions of starlings come to rest in Rome every winter during their annual migration from Northern Europe to Africa.

While many marvel at the birds' aerial acrobatics in swooping, swirling and twirling as one, there is a downside to the breathtaking murmurations.

Every year, the city is bombarded by tonnes of slippery and foul-smelling excrement from the starlings, causing locals to shield themselves with umbrellas even when it is not raining.

The layer of bird faeces has even made driving risky - windshields have become murky and road surfaces so slippery that skidding accidents have spiked.

Council spokeswoman Raffaella Mercolella told The Guardian: "During their stay in Rome, the birds fly out in the countryside and eat olives off the trees, so their mess becomes oily and more dangerous for mopeds, which have been involved in accidents."

The city has found a creative way to tackle the problem - by hiring people to walk under trees lining the River Tiber, where the birds roost, with loudspeakers in order to scare them off with recordings of the screeching noise starlings make when predatory falcons approach.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Target: Rome'. Print Edition | Subscribe