Dawn Square Patrol!
What do Eaton, Lowndes and Warwick Square, have in common? Answer – harris hawks being routinely flown as a deterrent to pigeons from making it their home.
Once a week David Bishop ensures Belgravia’s Eaton Square remains pigeon-free by deploying a harris hawk called Emu to scare the birds away.
Emu, a beautiful nine-year old male harris hawk, does not attack or kill pigeons, but is trained to fly up to the highest branch in the garden, then returns to his handler for a piece of food. Pigeons are not aware of this arrangement, and see the hawk as a predator. Dave and Emu work for Van Vynck Environmental, and early morning once a week can be found patrolling the square in a truck, giving the pigeons a hard time. Warwick Square have used the service for 4 years, Lowndes and Eaton Squares for the past 12 and 10 years, respectively. In all cases, pigeon numbers have declined.
Hawks are a more humane way of pest control than trapping them or shooting them. However, pigeons can be shot by the company with special permission granted by the police. Hawks take about six to eight weeks to be trained to fly and return to their handler, but at least a year to train it how to scare off pigeons. Van Vynck Environmental breeds a variety of birds to use in different locations.
When former mayor, Ken Livingstone decided to rid Trafalgar Square of pigeons, Dave was called in. Feeding was gradually stopped and a controlled feed introduced, so the pigeons didn’t starve, over an 18-month period. Then they started to fly the hawks. At the time there was an estimated 12,000 pigeons in the square.
The rest of the week Dave drives to other city centres and commercial sites, with Emu sitting on a perch in a large wooden box in the back of the van. The box means he does not have to be hooded for his excursions.