San Francisco subway hires bird of prey to scare away pigeons

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Aug 11 (Reuters) – Riders of California’s San Francisco Bay Area subway system may have noticed a new station guard in recent months.

A 5-year-old Harris Hawk named Pac-Man has taken up residence at the El Cerrito del Norte train station, where he lies on the prowl – not for cheats, but for pigeons.

Ricky Ortiz, a falconer with Falcon Force and the handler of Pac-Man, began patrolling the bird at the station this summer, under contract with the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, system to keep pigeons at bay and protect commuters from pigeon poo.

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The team patrols three days a week, starting their day at the ground floor entrance before scouring the platforms, scaring away pigeons resting on a ledge or on the station’s interior scaffolding.

So far, Ortiz has noticed a big difference.

“There were probably less than half the pigeons here after a week of flying,” he said.

Ortiz tries to keep Pac-Man from feasting on local pigeons or rodents, instead giving him snacks throughout the day to keep his feathered friend happy at work.

So far, Pac-Man has been a hit with commuters.

Rider Bethany Campbell, 43, took a selfie with Ortiz and Pac-Man to send to her family.

“We have family in the Midwest and South and they think everything in the Bay Area is weird, so the idea of ​​having birds here for bird eradication is just fun for them,” Campbell said, adding that she was initially scared when she saw the falcon but now thinks it’s awesome.

“I changed cars because I wasn’t going to be stuck in a metal box with a bird of prey.”

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Reporting by Nathan Frandino; edited by Diane Craft

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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