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Charles Darwin might have loved pigeons, but for city-dwellers they have posed more than a few problems; mainly, their poop.
BART has had to deal with its dove denizens for years. Now the transit agency has launched a creative way to deter the roosts: a bird of prey. No, they aren’t trying to create a blood bath. The mere sight of Pac-Man, an adult male Harris hawk, sends the birds up, up and away and out of the rafters, BART says.
Pac-Man has been seen lately at the El Cerrito Del Norte Station, happily perched atop its handler’s arm. Pac-Man comes from Falcon Force, a business out of La Crescent that offers professional bird abatement services. The hawk and its handler, Ricky Ortiz, come to the El Cerrito station three times a week, up to eight hours a day, BART said.
If you think bringing in the art of ancient falconry is a bit drastic, consider what BART says it has already tried to no avail: bird-repellent spikes, netting, owl statues, weird noises.
Lest you think pigeons are cute, BART reminds us that they are “non-native, non-migratory, and invasive.” On top of that, their droppings can carry bacteria, fungal agents and ectoparasites that can affect humans, the transit agency says.
The plan is to make the pigeons think that the station is now the hawk’s territory, in hopes that they will go set up shop somewhere else.
As for Pac-Man, he enjoys the hustle and bustle of a busy station and is not bothered by it, his handler said. Apparently Harris hawks are “mellow,” he said.
BART and Ortiz welcome anyone who sees them in the station coming up to say hello and maybe take a selfie. And you probably won’t have to worry about something unpleasant landing on your head anymore, too.