HARLINGEN — The denuded oak trees are a startling sight at a pair of Jack-in-the-Box restaurants here, their limbs lopped away, and their 20-foot trunks stabbing upward like some mad, post-apocalyptic sculpture.

And no, it isn’t some new-age, minimalist landscaping philosophy. The mature trees are healthy, and show no sign of dis-ease.

It was the birds.

The owners of the fast-food franchises are trying to deal with the frustrating habits of birds that flock to the floodlit night landscape of Harlingen to roost in trees and on power lines. It’s something that has plagued businesses with lighted buildings or parking lots, or those located near city street-lights.

“We’ve been doing it for the last three years,” said Luis Yzaguirre, spokesman for the Harlingen restaurants. “What was happening — and I’m sure you’re aware — they come in big flocks and do their business all over the place.

“We tried a bunch of different tactics — fake owls, speakers,” Yzaguirre said. “We actually installed a sprinkler-type system, and when it sensed movement in the trees, it would spray the birds.”

Unfortunately, as deterrents go, the sprinklers were unpersuasive.

“We got even more birds,” he said.

Yzaguirre said it’s frustrating, because the trees are healthy oaks. So every eight months, the restaurants send out a crew for the 18 or so trees and they receive a buzz cut.

“It’s expensive, but it actually works,” he added. “Obviously these are nice, mature trees and we don’t want to kill them. And they’ve been growing back every year.”

The villain in this story is a noisy neighbor with a screechy metallic voice who weighs 8 ounces and is nicknamed “devil bird.”

It’s unclear just why the great-tailed grackle flocks to the most brightly lit areas of a city to roost at night. It could be they just like to stay up late and chatter.

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