We were watching “Call The Midwife” on KET the other night.

There was a case of a man with a lung disease they had trouble diagnosing.

Turned out, he was raising pigeons.

Ah, ha, I said, histoplasmosis.

Histoplasmosis was a big health scarce word here from the mid-1970s to about 2005.

It’s a lung disease caused by a fungus that can be caused by inhaling spores from bird droppings.

In 1975, Frank Hoyt, a candidate for city commissioner, told voters that there were 10,000 pigeons in town.

And their droppings covered the roofs of downtown buildings, he said.

He proposed the “Great Pigeon Kill.”

It would have seen men on tops of downtown buildings, shooting any pigeons that came close.

Hoyt made national news with that, but he wasn’t elected and no pigeons died.

You know, I wonder whatever happened to the pigeons that used to inhabit downtown?

They’d be walking down the sidewalks or perched on power lines.

And decorating cars that were parked below.

I can’t remember the last time I noticed a pigeon down there.

In 1980, it was purple martins we worried about.

There were estimates that 10,000 of them had decided to stay here for a while.

But reports that year estimated that there were 3 million blackbirds in Daviess County.

By 1992, the city had declared war on blackbirds.

Thousands of blackbirds were landing in trees in various parts of town creating giant roosts and a lot of droppings.

Homeowners began banging pots and pans, tossing firecrackers into the trees and even using shotguns.

Owensboro once called itself a “City of Trees” and all the trees were attracting blackbirds, state officials said.

By winter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was using noise-makers with explosive sounds to try to move the birds on.

Apparently, the last war on blackbirds here was about 2005.

When I think about it, I remember a time when our backyard would be full of blackbirds looking for worms and other food on certain days.

But I haven’t seen that in years.


Last year, USA Today reported that bird populations in the United States and Canada have declined by 29% in the past 50 years.

The numbers were down by 3 billion birds, the story said.

Various reasons were given — loss of habitat, free-roaming cats, poison and more.

But the fact is, we’re not warring with blackbirds or pigeons these days.

These days we’re worried about something more deadly that we can’t see.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301


(1) comment

Steve Bailes

Good story as always. Keep ‘em coming Keith! (The stories, not blackbirds!)

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