But the birds seem to find the concert hall to their liking, and they came back again in 2021. Over two years the symphony has spent more than $100,000 cleaning up droppings, at a time when the pandemic has it near bankruptcy anyway. On some nights concert-goers have to pass through a rain of droppings to reach the front doors; there are pictures of people using umbrellas. The birds are also damaging, or some say slowly killing, the elm trees.
So the symphony just announced that they are going to pre-empt the birds' return by cutting down the 41 trees where they have been roosting. Margaret Renkl, the "southern culture" writer at the NY Times, investigated the resulting uproar. The tree people are outraged at the loss of mature trees from a city that, they say, doesn't have enough, and they also ask the reasonable question of whether we will keep cutting down any trees the birds choose to roost in until downtown Nashville doesn't have any suitable groves left. They proposed covering the trees with netting instead. But the bird people countered that this would be even more stressful for the birds than removing the trees, and they summoned images of hundreds of poor martins tangled in the huge nets. And of course the symphony is worried about any sort of bad publicity; what symphony can afford to alienate either bird lovers or tree lovers?
As Renkl points out, the birds probably started summering at the symphony because the trees they used to summer in were cut down for development, which happens every day in booming Nashville, and if they lose the trees by the symphony they will have to find a new home. There is no simple solution to the problems that result when people and wildlife make their homes together.