By Colleen Mastony
Tribune staff reporter
December 26, 2005
DECATUR, Ill. -- Every fall, the starlings descended on Decatur like a plague. Screeching and flapping, thousands of birds seized control of the park and dive-bombed residents, who fought back by lobbing firecrackers and blasting them with a propane cannon.
Nothing worked until town officials called in James Soules. As owner of the Decatur-based Bird Repellent Co., the quiet man said he could beat the birds, but there was a catch: He refused to tell anyone how he would do it. He demanded complete secrecy, warning officials not to spy on him.
Soules might have seemed like a swindler, but over the next few weeks something astounding happened. The starlings began to fly away. "I was amazed," said Dan Mendenall, a city official in Decatur. "It was almost like he wished them away."