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Cardinals aren’t the only birds Cubs have to deal with at Wrigley

For flocks of ring-billed gulls, Wrigley Field doesn’t mean baseball. It means: lunch.

The birds have taken to circling during games, occasionally dive-bombing for hot dogs and nachos and generally making a minor nuisance of themselves, according to Carl Rice, the Cubs’ vice president of ballpark operations.

“We’ve tried a little bit of everything, but, honestly, our flying friends, they usually adapt,” Rice said. “I am convinced now that no matter what we do, they will always be here until the beaches open up.”

Among the failed efforts to get the birds to go elsewhere, the Cubs have tried a chemical repellent that sprays something similar to purple grapefruit juice into the air, Rice said. They’ve also tried shooting off air cannons before games.

The birds “don’t like noise,” Rice said. “It scares them away, but only for a short period of time. I need something that scares them away for a baseball season.”

So far, he hasn’t found that.

Bird problems are nothing new for the Cubs. We’re not talking about Cardinals, either. Think: pigeons. There are lots of those that like to hang out at the ballpark, too. Rice’s crew tried scaring the pigeons away by placing fake owls on the roof and playing sound recordings of predators. Finally, they put in netting to block the birds from roosting in the stadium’s trusses, a strategy Rice said has kept the pigeons under control.

The gulls, though, don’t head to the ballpark to roost. They just want food. “The problem with gulls is that they are attracted to hamburgers and trash,” said Jill Niland, president of the Chicago Ornithological Society. “They will eat just about everything. So, with Wrigley, you have a place where a lot of people congregate . . . When people leave the stands, they can find a lot of food.”

Rice said dealing with the gulls comes with having a ballpark not far from the lake. “Certain things you kind of have to live with,” he said. “We are just hoping there is not an element that would affect a game. You don’t want to lose a baseball game because a ball hit a bird.”

There was a close call a week ago, when a fly ball was hit to center, where a flock of gulls had been hovering. But Marlon Byrd, the Cubs’ centerfielder, was still able to make the game-winning catch.

“I was trying to get as low as possible, just in case” the ball hit a bird, Byrd said.

The birds can be a little distracting when you’re trying to make a catch, said Byrd, but he’s philosophical about it, saying, “Got to play the elements.”

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