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Lakeview's Worst Parking Spot is for the Birds (To Poop On)

By Serena Dai | September 18, 2013 6:59am
 Cars that park in a notorious street parking spot on Stratford Place end up caked with bird poop in the morning. 
Stratford Place Bird Pooping Parking Spot
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LAKEVIEW — Tip for those parking on Stratford Place — don't park under the maple in front of the condo at 567 unless you want your car to get covered with bird poop. Like, a lot of it.

"It looks like something out of a horror film," Brian Priest, 46, said of the splatters on a beige Pontiac parked under the tree on Tuesday.

Priest said the Pontiac, which had a cloud of flies buzzing around it, is just one of many cars that has suffered from being under the "notorious" tree. Since he moved to the area 11 years ago, drivers who park under it during warmer weather have gotten a crappy surprise in the morning — a mistake he made himself years ago.

And, for some reason, it's just that one tree.

Stratford Place Bird Pooping Spot
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

"This car looks good compared to the one last week," he said. "I don't know how [the last driver] could look out the windshield."

Many residents couldn't remember when they first noticed the spot caked in poop, though they all agreed that no other tree in the area bears the same fruit.

People who live in the nearby condo said "it's always been like that." One woman thought it could have been a prank when she first saw it. Others have snapped photos and posted them on social media sites, including Chicago's Reddit page.

"I thought it was hilarious," said resident Aly Sivji, 29. "It's covered in excrement. There's no other way to describe it."

"You get the feeling that the cars never move, but it's a different car every time," said Brian Anderson, 45, who walks down the street weekly.

The culprit may be a roost of stocky, dark-colored songbirds.

Several bird experts guessed that European starlings could be the problem. They hang out in groups in the evenings, live in urban areas and could cause a sizable downpour of poop overnight, said T.J. Benson, a biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Renatta Delfino, 53, who lives in the area and has been an avid bird-watcher for 30 years, said she recently identified them as European starlings based on their appearance and loud chattering in the evenings.

They roost when they're done mating earlier in the summer, Benson said.

But there's something odd about the starlings on Stratford, the experts said. The street is filled with luscious trees to roost in, and there's even another crimson king maple tree — which Delfino, a TreeKeeper, identified — right next to the notorious one. Yet they only go to the one.

"That's kind of confusing to me," Benson said. "Sounds like there's a lot of potential choices out there. I don't know why they would pick one over the other."

For those who don't drive, the unsightly mass and buzzing flies aren't really an issue. The Illinois Department of Public Health says big populations of roosting birds can breed disease in their dried droppings, but the chances are slim.

Stratford Place residents probably will have to live with the poop spot. While there are tactics to try to get rid of the roost, the don't necessarily work in the long term, Benson said.

A plastic decoy owl, for example, could be used to try to scare the birds away, but they sometimes figure out the trick and continue on as they were, he said.

Priest ultimately coped by avoiding the spot, but some residents said that the drivers who park there are no fools. Parking is so tight in the neighborhood, they said, drivers will take what they can get.

"The most important thing is the parking spot," Delfino said. "It's a commodity here."