Hus­band-wife team uses hawks to scare off ‘pest’ birds

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - KICKOFF -

LOS AN­GE­LES — A hawk named Ri­ley soars be­tween high-rises in down­town Los An­ge­les. Smaller birds take no­tice. And take flight.

Ri­ley lands on a branch, sur­veys the con­crete jun­gle below and swoops down to land on the gloved hand of her owner.

Blazer-clad pro­fes­sion­als on their way to lunch do dou­ble-takes.

Hus­band-and-wife fal­con­ers Alyssa and Mike Bor­donaro are “The Hawk Pros,” just one of a num­ber of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia bird-abate­ment busi­nesses. They and their birds of prey are hired guns, brought in to scare away seag­ulls, pi­geons and other “pest birds” that cre­ate nui­sances and leave be­hind messes.

Their clients in­clude the agri­cul­tural city of Ox­nard, the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art and down­town Los An­ge­les’ U.S. Bank Tower, the sec­ond-tallest build­ing west of the Mis­sis­sippi River.

Most of the places they work are out­door eat­ing ar­eas.

“What seag­ulls do in their af­ter­math when they eat, it’s pretty messy,” said Mike, 35.

Alyssa, 30, said pest birds are able to thrive in metropoli­tan ar­eas be­cause they feel safe there.

“They need shel­ter, food and wa­ter, and they’re find­ing it in these false en­vi­ron­ments ba­si­cally that have sprin­klers and foun­tains and food 24/7, but they’re also us­ing the hu­mans as a shield against the preda­tors who are too scared to come in,” she said. “So by bring­ing in a preda­tor that’s not afraid of peo­ple, it just ru­ins ev­ery­thing for the pi­geons.”

Alyssa got the idea for the busi­ness while in col­lege, when she spent time work­ing with some­one else’s hawk scar­ing off seag­ulls at a land­fill.

Oc­ca­sion­ally peo­ple crit­i­cize the use of hawks for bird abate­ment, say­ing they should be free.

For one, the birds are born in cap­tiv­ity and can’t be re­leased to the wild, Alyssa said.

“I say,’Look, she’s to­tally free.’ I fly them free and they come back, and it in­stantly changes their mind,” she said. “All she’s do­ing is fly­ing, which she loves, and com­ing back for treats, which she loves.”

Richard Vogel / As­so­ci­ated Press

Fal­coner Alyssa Bor­donaro re­leas­ing her Har­ris’s hawk named Dany at the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art in Los An­ge­les.

Richard Vogel / As­so­ci­ated Press

Fal­coner Mike Bor­donaro re­leases Ri­ley, his Har­ris’s hawk, out­side the U.S. Bank Tower in down­town Los An­ge­les.

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