Rome is getting ready for the arrival of some 4 million starlings that migrate from north to south Europe with the arrival of winter. Many Romans will remember them from the magnificent patterns they make in the sky as they come in to roost at night; many more will remember them for the noise, the smell and the filth that they leave on Rome's streets.

The city's remedy is to keep them away with broadcasts of the birds' distress calls from loud speakers fixed to the trees in the areas where they roost. The birds have a liking for Rome's plane trees and umbrella pines in particular, so usually the worst hit areas of the city are Prati, along the Tiber banks, Via Veneto and the station. This year there is also a scheme to use lazers to split up the huge flocks into small groups.