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Rome Is Getting Buried in the Droppings of a Million Starlings

Cars are skidding off the road and people are carrying umbrellas.
A flock of starlings flies over Rome on December 15, 2015.
A flock of starlings flies over Rome on December 15, 2015.REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Over the past week, Rome has been drowning in poop. The Italian capital woke a few days back to find roads, sidewalks, and cars slicked with a layer of bird feces—so slimy and thick that it required a special cleanup operation to make some streets safe to drive on. Windshields have become murky and road surfaces so slippery that skidding accidents have spiked.

The culprits: a vast flock of up to a million starlings that had come to rest in the city during their annual migration from Northern Europe. The birds arrived some months back and have been causing problems ever since. What’s made the new year notably worse is heavy rain that has blasted off droppings that had built up on tree branches, layer after layer, sending them flooding into the streets below. Some parts of Rome have become covered with a layer of ordure so dense that the place has started to resemble an avian-afflicted Pompeii.