Flying Into Action
Published in the Evening Standard
Twice a week a dozen of them come to town. Birds from Essex in full plumage that flit and flutter down the concrete corridors of power causing mahem. And the grand Whitehall mandarins love them. In fact the Treasury finances them to cause trouble.
David Van Vynck’s Harris Hawks are paid to unnerve the residents, to disturb the feral pigeons that stain the grand civil-service buildings with their droppings. He runs a squadron of 12 hawks employed to keep the Cabinet Offices, Portcullis House and, in particular, the newly refurbished Treasury clear of London’s unhygienic flying rats. “They are vermin”, says Van Vynck, who drives in before dawn from Orsett in Essex with his team of six professional Falconers.
“Pigeons are amazingly adaptable and netting and spikes don’t always get rid of them. But the hawks disturb the pigeon’s patterns of roosting and nesting.They make them feel uneasy and move them on.”
His team, who all started at amateur sporting falconers, use the American Harris Hawk because of it’s temperament. “Falcons are not suited to central London: they require a large space,” he says.
“But the Harris is easy to work within an urban environment. They stay trained and have a tolerance to noise.”
The handlers climb on to the roofs of Whitehall before dawn while the pigeons are still sleeping. Once the pigeons see the hawk, with it’s 3ft wingspan, they flee:those that don’t are killed and eatern.
“Our birds are working bird,” says David Van Vynck. “They fly for six hours a day and in the evening they are kept on a sheltered perch a few feet above the ground. It is similar to using working dogs to find game.”
Now, if he can turn his birds loose on the pigeon-hearted politicians...
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