El Cerrito, CA

BART station hired hawk to help with its pooping pigeons dilemma

Josue Torres
(Courtesy of BART)

Pigeons have plagued BART’s El Cerrito del Norte station for years, and attempts to shoo them away from the above-ground station have failed.

As announced by BART on Thursday, that all changed recently when the rail company employed Pac-Man, a 6-year-old Harris hawk, as a creative solution.

According to BART and Falcon Force, the agency’s chosen bird control company based in California, in only a few weeks, there have been noticeably fewer pigeons at El Cerrito del Norte because they are afraid of becoming the hawk’s target.

Pigeons are non-native, non-migratory, and invasive; riders and workers may find them annoying, but more significantly, pigeon droppings may contain bacteria that are hazardous to people, even though El Cerrito Station is cleaned daily, starting at 6 a.m.

If left unchecked, pigeon populations at BART stations may continue to grow for years.

Eight hours a day, three days a week, Pac-Man and his human handler may be seen patrolling the station.

Officials at BART claimed that despite several attempts to reduce the station’s pigeon population, before the hawk, nothing was accomplished.

Pigeon trapping nets were ineffective. The many bird-repellant spikes that BART employees attached to ledges, ticket machines, and other areas eager to attract pigeons haven’t worked either. Owl replicas to scare them off were similarly ineffective.

As a result, BART chose Pac-Man, a male hawk that instills fear in pigeons while impressing BART travelers who have just witnessed the hawk flying around.

A Falcon Force official said it’s a lot greener, far more sustainable sort of program because nothing is wounded or killed. The pigeons just decide that this is not a secure location and fly away.

Pac-Man is a Harris hawk, a more gregarious kind of hawk that is frequently compared to wolves since it hunts and lives in packs in the wild. This kind of bird is highly adaptive to chaotic and loud settings like a BART station.

BART has utilized animals in the past to solve its issues. Spanish-Boer cross goat herds have been deployed by the train company to graze dry vegetation on its land in recent summers to reduce fire hazards.

It’s not just El Cerrito del Norte that has a pigeon issue. The birds are also a problem in other open-air stations such as San Leandro, Hayward, and Balboa Park.

Considering how effective Pac-Man’s work is, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see other stations and public places use the same method to combat the problem.

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