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Street cleaning litter peckers on song

(April 01, 2009)

 A SQUAD of specially trained French crows has been drafted into Frome in a bid to keep the town’s streets litter free and cut council spending.

As well as gathering discarded chewing gum and cigarette butts outside local pubs, the birds have also been trained to remove weeds from hanging baskets and pavements around the town.
jackdawThe avian artisans then recycle the materials they collect to make nests - a trainee bird is pictured hard at work on a hanging basket in Cork Street.

Bird-loving councillors turned to the winged waste workers in desperation after complaints from visitors that the town centre was ‘untidy’.

The birds are all of the crow family, while their close relatives the magpies are involved in silver paper collection for charity.

"We started training the birds three years ago and now supply working flocks to a number of local authorities around the UK," said specialist bird trainer, Jacques D'Ore.
"They really seem to enjoy the work and will often swoop down to catch discarded litter before it even hits the pavement, giving an admonishing squawk at the guilty litter lout as they do so.
"They will do almost anything for a garlic flavoured leather-jacket - in fact I quite like them myself."
But some local residents have cried fowl at the use of the feathered litter peckers, claiming they spread disease and add to Frome’s already serious guano problems.
Council managers deny such issues, saying that all the birds have been given a clean bill of health.
Disgruntled former Warminster Councillor Steve Dancey, a keen bird fancier, applauded the new scheme.
"Once again, Frome has given us the bird and ruffled our feathers by showing us how things should be done," he said.
"This exposes a woeful lack of imagination on the part of our bird-brained local councillors who should be dragged up before the beak for dereliction of duty."
"The magpies show in black and white what can be achieved," said former deputy mayor Paul Macdonald.
"Compare this with Warminster where the mayor has admitted we have the town hall as the most expensive 'pigeon loft' in history."
"Perhaps someone here should be forced to eat crow as the americans like to say"

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