Springfield Calls in the 'Bird Whisperer'

Pesky bird populations have been an ongoing frustration to downtown Springfield, Ill. So much so that last week the city agreed to a big contract with a man known in Illinois as the "bird whisperer."

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

In today's last word in business, we meet the Bird Whisperer.

Mr. JIM SOULES (Bird Whisperer): Well, that's what they call me but I'd rather be called Jim most of the time.

YDSTIE: Eighty-four-year-old Jim Soules gets rid of birds. Decatur, Illinois is already a happy customer, according to Assistant City Manager Bill Tyus.

Mr. BILL TYUS (Assistant City Manager, Decatur, Illinois): It was pretty bad, both in terms of the volume of birds, and also of course with bird droppings and that kind of thing. His methods - of course, we're not overly familiar with what it is he does - but whatever it is he's doing it works and it works very well.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And don't ask Jim Soules how he does it. He promises he doesn't harm a single starling feather or pigeon beak when he works. But he won't say whether he actually whispers to the problem birds, or shouts at them, or if he uses a secret repellant, or even dresses up like an owl and flaps his arms.

In fact, Jim Soules has never revealed his methods to anyone, something he makes sure is specified in the contracts he signs with cities.

Mr. SOULES: You go and ask Coca-Cola what their method is, what their secret of their formula is. It's a trade secret. And that's what ours is, a trade secret we don't disclose.

YDSTIE: And if you thought the next owner of Bird Repellant Company, the younger Jim Soules, would some day give us the secret to ridding your attic, garage, or barn of pesky fowl, the odds aren't good.

Mr. SOULES: He's harder to get to, than I am, to talk. He won't talk.

MONTAGNE: Jim Soules, the Bird Whisperer, is richly rewarded for his services. His current client, the city of Springfield, Illinois, just signed him to a three-year deal worth $164,000.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

YDSTIE: And I'm John Ydstie.

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