Egrets and herons on a picnic table in Glenn County
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Egrets Run Wild In Willows

Snowy egrets and juvenile black-crowned night herons take over a picnic table in Memorial Park at the center of Willows. The small Northern California city, about 90 miles from Sacramento, has been plagued by migratory boards for the last three years. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
A heron and an egret rest on a Memorial Park picnic table stained with bird droppings. The birds are protected by the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act: During breeding and nesting, which started in April and won’t end until September, it is illegal to chase them away. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
Egrets make noise in Memorial Park. “It sounds like a raucous high school party,” says neighbor Fred Roberts, 88. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
Young birds pack a tree at Memorial Park. Glenn County and Willows plan to combat the bird invasion next year by pruning trees, dismantling this year’s nests and firing blasts at dawn and dusk with the kind of cannon used to steer birds away from vineyards and airports. There’s also talk of strobe lights. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles)
A juvenile black-crowned night heron sits on the ground. In the park and on bordering streets, crews have picked up more than 1,200 dead chicks that toppled from nests. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
Young birds look for food near government buildings. The county had tried to scare off the birds with air horns, but it disrupted court hearings. “A judge said if we did it one more time he’d have everyone arrested,” said Bobbé Lewis, a Glenn County official. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
A young bird walks by a droppings-stained park bench. County health official Scott Gruendl says guano has to accumulate over time, dry out and become airborne for it to pose a danger of spreading certain illnesses. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
Feathers cover the frontyard of a home bordering Memorial Park. Neighbors of the park worry about their health. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)
Young birds drink from a gutter at the park. “I see them every day as my particular nightmare,” Lewis says, “but they’re beautiful.” (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)