Even in the suburbs the pigeon mess has become ridiculous. Droppings were two inches high on the 600 feet of concrete ledges outside the smoke-colored windows of the Geological Survey Headquarters in Reston -- smelly, unsightly pigeon mess, a repository for mites, lice and disease.
Enter Jerry Cuthbertson, assistant building manager at the Geological Survey. He is not a man to say no to a challenge that has defied solution at federal buildings around the nation.
Yesterday morning, workers at Cuthbertson's Reston building had to step gingerly to avoid the dead pigeons that littered the grounds. Cuthbertson had decided to fight feather with feather, importing 30 blue and gray pigeon hawks from the hills of West Virginia to Reston's Sunrise Valley Drive.
The hawks were the gift of a friend of a federal worker who trapped them in the wild. Their toll, since they were released Thursday, has reached 50. Cuthbertson said yesterday there weren't any mourners when he laid the dead birds to rest in a dumpster. At this rate, Cuthbertson says, "maybe we can get them all."
To do so would indeed be a feat. Many before Cuthbertson have tried to rid the Washington area of domestic pigeons, the species that roosts on monuments and buildings here and often lives for 35 years. The government's efforts to eradicate the bird have ended, for the most part, in failure.
General Services Administration officals, who are responsible for the upkeep of most federal properties, once sprinkled a powder called Roost-No-More on some buildings, hoping to burn away the webbing of the pigeons' feet. It didn't work.
The pigeon situation, says one GSA official, "is a problem, one which is constantly with us, one we are constantly taking steps to alleviate."