Monday, September 26, 2011


I am a real pantywaist when it comes to seeing animals killed. Well, actually I don’t even like thinking about it, or moreover, reading about it happening. And the older I get the less I like it. Just this week I had to skip a whole chapter in one of Barbara Kingsolver’s old books because that chapter was about cock-fighting. It may have literary qualities and be very integral part to the plot, but I don’t want to read about cockfighting.

So when I read this most interesting story in the LA Times about birds of prey -- with nary a drop of blood in the telling -- I wanted to share it with everyone.

There is a 17-acre office complex in Santa Monica with a large Water Garden (like a pond) in its midst, and it wasn’t unusual for the first people at work each day to find as many as 100 gulls and pigeons wandering around the area and doing what gulls and pigeons usually do – mostly eating and pooping. What was supposed to be beautiful and serene had become truly gross. However, instead of using some diabolical means of keeping the gulls away (like with bb-guns), the complex management hired “Airstrike Bird Control,” a company out of Cambria, California, to bring in some falcons and hawks to do the job instead.

Now that sounds ominous, but here’s how it works: At night the birds are put in large perch boxes in the complex’s garage, and each morning they are taken out near the water garden and carefully tethered to outdoor perches. Gulls and pigeons have excellent eyesight, and since the birds of prey are their natural enemies the gulls and pigeons get the picture very quickly and move on to safer climes. Every day they look to see if the falcons and hawks are still there. One quick look is all it takes for them to leave post haste. The good news is that no blood is shed. Airstrike Bird Control thinks that a two-month indoctrination course should be enough for the unwanted birds to get the picture and permanently relocate elsewhere.

It’s interesting that the owner and trainer of the falcons and hawks has given each of his birds a name – Mia Farrow, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn, and Johnny Depp. The older birds are allowed to have a time of free flying each morning and evening, and for their safety they are equipped with little transmitters that the owner can use to find them just in case they get confused about where “home” is. But even at that, they all know their names and respond to a vocal call.

There is another plus in not having the complex turned into a bloody battleground. These birds really are strikingly beautiful in their watchful poses, and sometimes it is hard for employees to keep their eyes on their own work. They often are seen gazing out a window, marveling at the beauty of birds they don’t see very often.

This is a happy bird story, and I wouldn’t mind seeing these birds myself, though unfortunately my window is not nearly close enough.

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