Vahé Alaverdian of Falcon Force, along with his Harris’s Hawk named PacMan, have partnered with the San Francisco Municipal Railway to deter pigeons from El Cerrito del Norte Station, where the situation had gotten dire. This form of pest management involves having a trained bird of prey fly around the area to frighten, not trap or kill.
On Pigeon Patrol at the Train Station
Written by Bunny McFadden
This is BirdNote.
[Pigeon coos and wing flaps]
Birders in cities sometimes joke that they mostly see pigeons, but if you’re waiting for a train in San Francisco, you might also see something unusual: a big bird with a serious job. His name? PacMan.
Vahé Alaverdian: I got PacMan about seven years ago and he’s a captive bred Harris’s Hawk.
Vahé Alaverdian of Falcon Force, along with PacMan, have partnered with San Francisco area transit authorities to deter pigeons from El Cerrito del Norte Station, where the situation had gotten dire.
Vahé Alaverdian: When we first started, they were sitting on the signs. They were sitting on the concrete ledges. Their droppings are all dripping down and it’s a huge health hazard, inhaling pigeon droppings.
This form of pest management involves having a trained bird of prey fly around the area to frighten, not trap or kill. Pigeons have a homing sense and might not wise up to trapping, while poison can have ripple effects on everything from local pets to plants and wildlife.
Vahé Alaverdian: There’s no euthanization in this process. We’re a completely sustainable pest management. It’s a predator-prey relationship and the prey species have no choice but to take off and find refuge somewhere else.
[Harris's Hawk calls]
Hawks like PacMan have to be captive-bred, and they start training at 16-20 weeks old. They spend two weeks training, then keep practicing throughout their lives. PacMan has a close companionship with his trainers.
Vahé Alaverdian: It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship that we have going with these raptors. The positive impact speaks for itself. And it’s a beautiful thing, what can I say?
For BirdNote, I’m Ariana Remmel.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Editor: Jazzi Johnson
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Harris’s Hawk ML44764 recorded by Nigel Tucker.
Rock Pigeon Xeno Canto 485506 recorded by Paul Marvin.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2023 BirdNote February 2023
Narrator: Ariana Remmel
ID# alaverdiank-01-2023-02-22 alaverdiank-01