Swooping birds of prey could become a familiar sight in Belfast City Centre if an innovative pest control scheme takes off.
Jay Parker and his dad Tom have just launched a new pest control business using falconry to deter the feral pigeons that plague the city streets and leave their droppings.
The Bangor pair have set up a local branch of the UK’s largest falconry franchise, NBC Bird and Pest Solutions, which tackles the problem of nuisance birds everywhere from city centres to historical buildings and landfill sites.
“The birds of prey don’t hunt the birds. They will just fly up to a roof and sit there. Just their presence will scare the pigeons off — it’s amazing,” Jay says.
“We can use our hawks in the city centre, in industrial estates, landfill sites, all over. Business people don’t want to have their buildings pooed on!”
The business came into being when Tom sold his house and was looking for an enterprise to invest in. On deciding on the falconry franchise, the pair studied for a Masters Course in falconry with the company, which now also supplies the birds. These include five falcons, two Harris Hawks and a couple of owls, which the Parkers also bring along to school demonstrations and fairs.
They are at the stage of showing off what the birds can do.
Gulls and crows can be a huge problem at landfill sites as they mob the workers in their hundreds, Jay explained.
“The birds think it belongs to them and the people are intruding. There are hundreds of gulls and they go down and attack the workers.
“They shouldn’t be in built-up areas. Really we are inviting them in with our bad habits of throwing litter down and throwing food down for them.”
The pair also carry out other forms of humane bird control and have already cleared out a number of pigeon infestations in properties on behalf of estate agents.
Just in case of any mishaps, the birds are fitted with a telemetry tracking system that can keep tabs on them within a 30-40 mile radius.
The hawks and falcons are becoming a familiar sight around Bangor where Jay trains them to fly in a built-up environment.
“We can fly the hawks, but not the falcons, from the ground but in city centres you can fly the falcons from the roof. It turns heads and creates a lot of interest,” he added.