Birds Of Prey Battle ‘Seagulls’ At University, Landfill [Video]

Birds of prey are being used to successfully chase off so-called seagulls in a new program at the United Kingdom’s Plymouth University.

Birders know that there’s no such species as a seagull, but the unnamed gull species has been described in a local press report as being unusually vicious and aggressive. The bold seagulls nest where they want, even in dangerous places like chimneys, and they have caused damage to the school’s buildings by clogging drains and otherwise defacing the structures.

They’re even supposedly guilty of attacking students.

As a result, the university has now hired Martin Cattell, a falconer for NVC Bird Pest Solutions, who uses Harris Hawks and peregrine falcons to chase the gulls away. He brings the birds of prey onto campus and even on to rooftops.

The seagulls can’t nest in peace with gull-eating predators flying to check them out, so they move along peacefully. “Harris hawks and falcons just scare them and force them out,” Cattell said. His birds of prey don’t harm the gulls. They just scare them off.

Lots of us have probably observed Harris Hawks and other falcony birds being used to scatter city pigeons. The Harris Hawk species is particularly beloved by modern falconers, because this bird evolved to hunt in packs. The so-called “wolf of the sky” can therefore create a powerful hunting bond with a human, as well as another Harris Hawk.

But can even this resourceful species cope with entire large aggressive gulls that are scary enough to attack strapping college boys?

Well, we don’t have to just take Cattell’s word for it that a Harris Hawk can do the job.

A California landfill operated by Waste Management has published video of their falconer, Leo Vasquez, who uses a large female Harris Hawk to scatter off the large, aggressive Western Gull. The video was made and posted by Monterey County Weekly, and it’s well worth watching to see how these birds operate.

Mostly Carmen, the Harris Hawk in question, just chases away these powerful gulls. But she’d be delighted to catch and eat one, Vasquez said with an impish grin.

She is after all a bird of prey. And “seagull” probably tastes a lot like chicken.

[Harris Hawk photo by Tony Hisgett via Flickr and Creative Commons]

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