As temperatures begin to fall and days begin to shorten, many residents of Monett and the surrounding area are noticing birds -- lots of birds -- landing in trees just before sunset to roost for the night.
"At about 7 p.m., these birds just start flocking to trees for about two blocks on either side of us," said Bonnie Wheaton, who lives in the 500 block of County Road. "They land and then another group will come in and they'll all take off and swarm around before settling in the same tree. They'll do this a half a dozen times every night. When they take off in the morning, it sounds like an airplane."
Wheaton doesn't worry so much about the flying birds -- they are kind of interesting to watch, she noted. Wheaton is more concerned about the potential health hazards from their droppings that are "plastering" the rooftops, sidewalks and vehicles that are the unfortunate victims of nature.
"They start at the tops of the trees and fill them all the way down," Wheaton said. "They will just turn the trees black, there are so many of them."
Several neighbors feel her concerns are valid. Birds harbor ticks, fleas, mites and other parasites that are commonly found in birds' nests. Inhaling bird feces can cause an incurable disease known as histoplasmosis, characterized by constant flu-like symptoms.
Laura Heeter, a neighbor and the mother of two boys under the age of 5, takes certain precautions when the flocks start swarming neighborhood trees in the evening.
"I don't let my boys outside to play," Heeter said. "It's even a topic of discussion on Facebook, 'what is up with the birds in Monett?'"
Residents say they have presented information about the bird problem to members of the Monett City Council.
"I feel that this issue will eventually resolve itself, when the weather changes and the birds move further south," said City Administrator Dennis Pyle.
As for the city's official position on problem birds, Pyle said he doesn't think that there are ordinances governing the city's response to the avian assault on the city.
"We can certainly research the matter and try to determine a way to alleviate it," Pyle said. "But the birds are primarily on private property, and there is little the city can do about that."
Part of the problem is that Monett and most of southwest Missouri, make up one of the four major North American flyways that migratory birds utilize during flight. Those flyways include the Atlantic, the Mississippi, the Central and the Pacific. Except for the coastal migration paths, flyway boundaries are not always sharply defined and both the northern breeding and southern wintering grounds are more or less overlapping. In the Panama region, parts of all four flyways merge into one.
"It's almost like the Alfred Hitchcock movie 'The Birds'," said Wheaton. "Except these aren't as mean."
For the time being, at least in the evening, some may say Monett has "gone to the birds." But come late winter, many residents will be eagerly seeking the sight of these feathered friends as they signal the start of spring and warmer weather in the Ozarks.