Look up at overhead powerlines in downtown Cebu City, and you can see thousands of small black birds resting on the wires.
What are they doing there?
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources inspected the downtown area on Wednesday to investigate the presence of birds called swiftlets, locally called sayaw, roosting on electric wires in Borromeo and Colon streets.
Motorists and passers by would often stop and look up at the unusual sight of thousands of birds sitting on top of old buildings and electrical cables.
Sayaw birds are not an endangered species, said Ariel Rica, chief of the Wildlife Management Division of the DENR. They are abundant in Cebu and feed on insects.
Their presence indicates that food is available in downtown Cebu City, said Rica.
This could be termites in old buildings. Or it could be a sign that a lot of garbage is drawing insects, which the birds feed on.
“The advantage of this is that the birds control the multiplication of insects in the area that may be carriers of bacteria that can cause various illness,” he said.
He also said that it’s possible that the natural forest habitat of these birds has been disturbed, forcing them to flock to the city and other areas where they can eat and rest.
Rica estimated 4,000 to 5,000 swiftlets in Colon and Borromeo streets during his inspection.
According to the street vendors in the area, they have seen these swiftlets come and go for three months.
Their number has grown over the recent days.
“A lot of people would stop and look up, others get upset because they would often step on bird droppings and if they are not lucky, bird waste falls on their head or clothes,” said street vendor Manuel Cuevas in Cebuano.
Traffic enforcer Jean Paolo Neri said the presence of the birds has caused minor accidents, as motorists could not help but stop on the road to observe the birds, or suddenly get hit by bird droppings.
Bernadette Bragat, a biologist who joined the inspection, said they need to catch at least one bird to confirm the identification. They will do this within the week.
Rica asked the public not to capture the birds or hurt them.
As wildlife, the birds still have to be protected, he said.