They squawk, squabble, occasionally dive bomb. But urban birds also leave surprisingly expensive messes, and the provincial government is getting creative on how to get rid of pesky pigeons, seagulls and geese nesting on downtown Victoria buildings.
But they’ve hired a very unusual contractor: hawks!
Trained raptors from the Pacific North West Raptors Centre in Duncan are being hired to patrol the skies and scare off birds from nesting in downtown Victoria buildings for a three-month pilot project.
“Well be going up on the rooftops and just flying him around!” said Issac King, hawk handler with Pacific North West Raptors Centre, gesturing to Harris’s hawk named Vega, sitting on his arm.
“Our goal is to just add that predator to the area. It doesn’t take much, it just takes the sight of a natural predator and the gulls are going to want to move somewhere where he’s not hanging around.”
A handler and trained hawks will be hanging out on Victoria’s rooftops at different times during the day, with the raptors released not to hunt, just to circle the skies.
It’s a humane attempt to discourage birds from building nests and return to a more natural habitat.
The province says nesting birds have caused big damage to their buildings for years, creating safety issues when they make their nests near air intakes.
Birds have also been known to fly near or into staff and visitors.
And while wire netting, anti-roost spikes, and hawk kites are all already used, they’re not proving to be effective.
Several other cities and airports have successfully used raptors to deter urban birds, and if this three-month pilot project works, they’re hoping to bring back the program next year.