November 11, 2002
THE TIGER IN THE FRONT ROOM:
Hawks are a new fighting force aimed at ridding London of vermin
(Jane Wardell, Nov. 3, 2002, Associated Press)
Early on a crisp morning, while most of the capital still sleeps, an elite fighting force is ridding the city of vermin.
Buzz, a 2-year-old Harris' hawk, is flying high above Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and other landmarks on the lookout for one of the greatest scourges of modern London - pigeons.
Buzz and his handler, Roger Polley, rise before 4 a.m. three days a week to climb to the top of the Treasury building, where Buzz is set free. His circling presence is enough to scare off recalcitrant pigeons.
"It's like having a tiger in your front room. You're not going to hang around to see if it can catch you and you are not going back in to see if it's still there," Polley said.
The old ways are often the best.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 11, 2002 8:56 AM
UK version of "Doves delenda est"?
Wasn't there a flap about 10-15 years back concerning Peregrine falcons and pigeons? As I remember it, some Peregrines started nesting on a tall building in downtown NYC. This was considered "cute" and "adorable" until the falcons starting eating the pigeons, sometimes snatching them right out of the air for dinner in front of people. There was shock at just how violent a raptor can be when it's hungry. The falcons, of course, must have thought that they were in the land of plenty. "Hunt
for a pigeon, honey? I couldn't frigging miss
if I tried."
I can't find any specific articles, but this one
talks about workers finding "pigeon heads" on their work scaffolding every morning.
Peregrine falcons are doing fine in many cities, adapting well to the prey-rich ecology. In fact, they have been removed from the Endangered Species List, though you'd never know it to read, say, the NYT.To add insult to injury for the "leave it alone" types, the recovery was managed largely by the Peregrine Fund, a private organization founded by falconers. You don't always hear that part.
How do I know? I,ve been a falconer for almost 40 years, and worked as a hacksite attendant for the P-Fund in the seventies, releasing falcons into the wild.
Yeah, people got very upset when the hawks would swoop in front of them to nail a pigeon. Similar complaints are now heard from folks whose backyard feeders serve as virtual saltlicks.
A little off topic, but a few years ago some tall buildings were added to downtown Tampa's not very burgening skyline. The buildings attracted turkey buzzards, who spend a few months each year circling ominously about. Of course, when actually confronted with nature, people started to complain about the birds even though there wasn't any pigeons being disembowled because the buzzards aren't predatory, rather they eat rotting corpses. Of course, I always thought the birds were attracted by the stench of the many law offices located downtown. I don't know what this adds to the discussion, but I always have liked the buzzards.
They circle a Seafood restaurant near us--that'll put you off your feed.