STORY: There’s a new sheriff in town… and his name is Pac-Man.
The 5-year-old Harris Hawk, along with falconer Ricky Ortiz, were recently hired to patrol this San Francisco Bay Area metro station to keep pigeons at bay and protect commuters from pigeon poop.
It used to be a major problem, but Ortiz says Pac-Man has scared many of the pigeons away.
ORTIZ: “If you look behind me, up on the railings and all that, they were, they were perched on there. There is probably about maybe 15 or 20 pigeons inside just this area. Um, and then up on the platforms they were on, on the ledges, you know, wherever pretty much they can hang out." (flash)
"Just after the first week or so, we noticed a huge difference. There was probably less than half of the pigeons were here after the first week of us flying, establishing the territory."
Ortiz says Harris Hawks are natural predators for pigeons, who keep their distance so they don’t end up as lunch.
Ortiz tries to keep Pac-Man from feasting on the pigeons or local rodents, instead giving him snacks throughout the day.
ORTIZ: "So a typical day is we get here and we make our round. We start off down in the bottom, inside the facility, making sure there’s no pigeons hanging out in there and then we work our way up here to the platforms and just check the ledges and the roof, make sure they’re not trying to sneak in on us and keep them out, and he does a pretty good job at that.”
Pac-Man does a pretty good job of turning human heads, too:
SOT: “It’s very unexpected coming on Bart and seeing that, but what a beautiful animal.”
“It’s a neat way of curbing the pigeon problem. There’s a lot of people that feed them. I know they’re not supposed to, but it’s not enforced, but this seems to be a good way to keep them under control.”
After all, the netting and spikes installed to prevent pigeons from nesting only went so far.
Sometimes - the mere presence of a pigeon predator is what's needed to get the job done.