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  The Electric New Paper 4 Nov 07
Birds swarm Choa Chu Kang, residents can't decide if they're airborne pests OR good luck charms?
By Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

THE airborne invasion of Choa Chu Kang begins around 7.15pm daily.

The attacking forces: About a thousands barn swallows dropping bird poo.

Passers-by near Block 621 can be caught in the 15-minute frenzy.

Some walk like they are trying to pick their way through the stuff splattering all around them.

Others walk fast, or awkwardly break into a run, with eyes fixed on the birds above.

Or scamper with their hands shielding their heads, or make a detour.

A few walk confidently, with newspapers, umbrellas or plastic bags protecting their heads.

The mess the birds leave behind has also caused some residents to come up with their own remedies.

A 51-year-old housewife, who gave her name only as Madam Teo, said she has tried everything - from lining her parapet with newspapers to using a stick to scare the birds and attaching strings to plastic bags to act as scarecrows.

Yet, the birds return each year, said Madam Teo, a resident of Block 621 for 13 years.

Said Madam Teo: 'I have no choice, but to close all the windows, even if it means our flat will become stuffy. It's either that or we have to endure the smell of bird droppings.

'We have tried washing away the droppings, but the estate still looks dirty.'

The birds usually take 15 minutes to quieten down after their evening arrival. At dawn, they fly off in search of food.

Resident Loh Kia Huat, a logistics executive, wonders if the birds pose a health risk.

Said Mr Loh, 38, who has two sons, aged 2 and 7: 'I don't mind one or two birds, but the numbers we get here are overwhelming.

'My wife is concerned that the bacteria from the bird droppings may be bad for our children's health. Whenever my baby, Jay, sees the birds near the window, all he wants to do is to reach out and play with them.'

When contacted by The New Paper, a spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), Mr Goh Shih Yong, said: 'Singapore is free from bird flu. AVA does regular checks on migratory birds for the presence of bird flu virus.'

Residents said workers from the Hong Kah town council have tried to tackle the issue.

Cleaners wash away bird droppings below the block daily and cut away branches to discourage the birds from perching.

The council was unable to comment at press time.


But not all residents are upset.

Mr Singara Velu, who manages Berris Kids House - a student care centre at Block 620 - believe the birds bring luck.

Said Mr Velu, in his 50s: 'We pay so much to go to a bird park. Over here, nature comes to your doorstep.

'I was told by my Chinese fengshui master that whenever birds come into your life, they will bring you luck.'

Mr Velu said that for the last three years, swallows have visited the estate.

They perch on the parapets and corridor railings of Blocks 620 and 621, he said.

Viewing them up close was a treat for 10-year-old Loh Yu Kang from Yew Tee primary school.

Last year, the birds used to perch near his flat's windows.

Said Yu Kang, from Block 621: 'When they're resting, they're very cute. You can almost touch them. But they are alert and will fly away when scared.'

Previously, other estates, in Yishun, Serangoon and Sengkang, have been plagued by the migratory birds.

AVA said the birds - believed to be from Siberia or China - usually come in September, and fly off by March, the following year.

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