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12 March 2006
Hawk patrolling prehistoric monument, chasing off pigeons

National Park officials are testing the ability of Marie, a raptor trained in bird abatement, to scramble and scare off most of the pigeons that have taken residence in and are befouling the prehistoric Casa Grande Ruins (Arizona, USA). The four-story, hand-built structure that's the center of a Hohokam Indian village was the nation's first archaeological preserve and one of its first US national monuments.
     Pigeons have been roosting in its caliche, or concrete-like clay walls, for the past few years, damaging them with their pecking and their constant droppings. Marie, a Harris' hawk rehabilitated by Liberty Wildlife, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation foundation based in Scottsdale, has been brought in for two or three flights a week for the past few weeks, with fairly good results. "We've found that it's very effective for most of the birds," said Carol West, acting superintendent of the monument. The free-flying raptor chases the birds off on her arrival, but West said two or three pigeons that have established nests within crevasses of the ruins' walls "are pretty tenacious, coming back as soon as the hawk leaves." Park employees have begun trying to clear out the nests to dissuade the remaining pigeons from returning. Marie's flights would be cut back if the plan succeeds.
     The Salt River Project is paying for the bird control program, and a plan is being studied to put three 'raptor poles' in the park, similar to utility poles with a platform atop them, including one with a nesting platform, to invite wild raptors into the area. West said the raptor approach is essentially nonlethal and appears promising as a long-term solution to help protect the ruins. "Many of the other bird-control measures we have investigated are ineffective, inhumane or environmentally damaging," she said.

Sources: Associated Press, KVOA (7 march 2006)

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