Controlling seagull population explotion with falcons

Seagull Pacific Grove

Seagull populations have exploded in Northern California, causing problems for local business, especially at waste management operations and landfills — where seagulls congregate en masse for free food.

If you live near the coast, you have probably had a seagull poop bomb you, or had food or your picnic lunch stolen by aggressive seagulls.

Tourist Photographing Seagull Pacific Grove web

Tourist photographing seagull – Pacific Grove

At one point, the Monterey Regional Waste Management District in Marina estimated having over 10,000 seagulls at their site on a daily basis, causing safety problems for tractor operators who have to get out of their vehicles to clean seagull poop off windows.

You may have seen Kate Marden from West Coast Falconry around Pacific Grove, along with her falcon recently…

Falconer at Pacific Grove web

Kate Marden from West Coast Falconry with her Sonoran Desert Falcon

The city of Pacific Grove hired Kate to scare off seagulls before the nesting season, so that they do not nest on rooftops and nearby areas.

From the West Coast Falconry website:

“Falconry based bird abatement” is the use of trained birds of prey to intimidate and scare off nuisance birds which cause loss of revenue for crop growers, health hazards in water resources, landfills, and safety concerns in airfields.

Very often the presence of the raptor is enough to deter and intimidate the prey species. Falconry works because pest birds are “hard-wired” to be terrified of Raptors – falcons, hawks and owls- that are their natural enemies. It’s a natural predator and prey relationship that evolution has programmed them to avoid.

Pest birds never get acclimated to Raptors while they will become used to noisemakers such as propane cannons, shotguns, or recorded calls.

Falconer at Pacific Grove 1 web

Kate and her Sonoran desert falcon were out yesterday (photographed in front of the Public Library) to educate the public about the program.  She will also hold informational talks at local schools.

Falconer at Pacific Grove 2

From a KSBW report:

The city came in and removed the empty nests and now my job is to keep the gulls agitated so they don’t nest here in the downtown area,” Marden said.

Marden said there’s only a small chance one of her birds will actually take flight to scare the seagulls. She said for the most part just knowing there’s a bigger bird in town is enough.

March is when the gulls build nests and then lay eggs later in spring. Once there is an egg in the nest, the nest is federally protected. So the city is hoping the nests will be built near the ocean instead.

The city said no one should feel too bad for the gulls.

According to ornithologists the birds of prey will be doing the seagulls a favor if the project works. Right now the gulls are in town because of easy access to human food, but the animal’s natural diet of seafood is much better for them and their chicks.

Snowy Plover Salinas RIver State Beach

Snowy plover at Salinas River State Beach

The seagull population boom is a problem for threatened birds like the snowy plover because gulls prey on other bird species, raiding nests for eggs and nestlings.