Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Different Kind of Pest Control

Ever had to wade through a passel of pigeons?

Maybe you've just had a murmuration of starlings swing through and left you with an unusually white windshield. Either way, it makes you wonder where the hawks are when you need them.

Oooo, now there's an idea...

Some municipalities or large business are making use of falconers to deal with this problem. One such, in Los Angeles, we recently visited. A lovely greenspace is surrounded by high rises--we entered the area around lunchtime, and most of the tables around the area were occupied.
I never saw a pigeon until we got to the parking garage. A pair of them were hiding out on the second level.

Apparently, this fine fellow shows up with his hawks (3 of them) a couple of times a week. I never got a really good image of the hawks themselves, but I think they are Harris's hawks (illustration here). That would make them non-natives to California, but an excellent choice for the task at hand. Harris's Hawks are more successful when they hunt cooperatively, and they nest in social groups.

Terrific lunch time entertainment--never saw a pigeon, but just watching the hawks was great fun!


Anonymous said...

Well I'm so surprised that pigeons ruin your lunch(life) so much. It still surprises me how much humans have such a huge sense of themselves. I really think until you can let nature be that there will always be problems. I think that people should look at the annoyances they cause first before attacking & mocking lesser creatures, also while using lesser creatures to do so no less.

R. K. Young said...

As I have written before, it is human-developed artificial habitats and assassination of predators that has given rise to what are commonly called "pest" species. Many invasive species (such as starlings) are part of this group. I don't live in Los Angeles, but I've found many examples of excellent green space planning there, and find it a valuable resource to bring back to my readers. The advantages of green space to the mental and physical health of office workers mean that smart companies provide for green views and green spaces. These spaces will, of course, attract other wildlife that is desperate to find habitat. Of the controls in use by developers of these built environments, falconry is BY FAR the most humane option. Most target species simply move on to other areas rather than face the threat of the predators. This IS how nature handles this problem. My backyard hosts plenty of songbirds--and doves and the occasional pigeon--but it also attracts predators. Sharp-shinned hawks stop by at least once a month (they are sometimes successful, based on the piles of feathers I have found) and I've enjoyed Cooper's Hawks and Screech Owls, as well. Predators are the sign of a healthy habitat, and prey species expect to encounter them.

chacha1 said...

Wow, "Anonymous" is a pigeon! Comes flapping around random places, craps all over everything, and then leaves.

Aaron Dalton said...

Thanks for this information.

I used to live in NYC and I remember that the city tried to use hawks for pigeon control there in at least one of the parks (Bryant Park).

I think it worked fairly well until a hawk swooped down and carried away one of the pampered little chihuahua-type dogs that certain New Yorkers like to carry around in handbags.

After that, I think the hawks got the boot. (Personally, I'd rather keep the hawks, even if it means a little collateral damage among the chihuahua population.) ;-)

R. K. Young said...

Aaron, you cracked me up! I can see how there might be some "collateral damage." Once had a cat who got hit by a hawk. Didn't know what had happened to her for a couple of days. When she got home, you could tell she wasn't well...I think we ended up doing a course of antibiotics based on the vet's hypothesis. Then all the fur on her back fell out and you could see the talon points of entry. Evidently, she weighed more than those designer dogs!

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