Hawk is main suspect as decapitated pigeons start falling from the skies

Some landowners use hawks to scare pigeons and gulls

Friday, 25th February — By Isabelle Stanley

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One of several dead birds found in Camden Town – and a Harris hawk [Hawk photo: Grahame Bentley]

A BIRDWATCHER says she has found a series of headless pigeons lying on the ground in Camden Town.

Maureen Rose, who lives on the Ferdinand Estate, said in the past few months she had come across seven decapitated birds: a baby crow, two wood pigeons and four street pigeons.

She believes their killer was a Harris hawk which some landowners use to scare away pigeons and gulls.

On one occasion, she said: “I saw a baby crow, it was a big baby crow but not ready to leave the nest and the hawk came and whipped it out of the nest and decapitated it.”

Harris hawks are the bird of choice for pest control companies, employed in shopping centres, airports and for events like Wimbledon.

They are released every few days to fly around and deter other species of birds from congregating in the area. They are meant to be a deterrent alone, but over the years, reports of fatal attacks have grown.

Ms Rose said she thought one could be used to keep the famous Camden Markets free of birds considered pests.

“I think it’s released on a Tuesday around 8am – I saw it one day when I was coming back from Malden Road and it was over the top of Ferdinand.

“It was a big bird and beside it were crows trying to make it go away and the seagulls were all upset – but the bird was calmly flying, gliding. It was a magnificent sight, but for what it does there’s nothing magnificent about it.”

She added: “It doesn’t do much apart from scare the living daylights out of anything for two hours and then they come back.

“It’s solving nothing. It’s mindless cruelty for nothing.”

The left-behind corpses are characteristic of a captive hawk which does not need to hunt for food.

Ms Rose said: “The sparrowhawk attacks are different, because it eats them, because it’s hungry. Same for foxes.

“When it happens from the big hawk there’s no feathers, no attack damage, no evidence of a fight, it’s just a whole corpse that drops.”

 

A 2006 campaign to stop the use of hawks as pigeon deterrents in Trafalgar Square made national headlines.

Julia Fletcher, of the Pigeon Action Group, called the loss of pigeons “the greatest wildlife cruelty catastrophe that London has ever known”.

She added: “The mayor [Ken Livingstone] is using these hawks as a kind of bloodsport.

“The birds will not go away. They are committed to being in the square. Lowering the food means you are starving huge numbers of the flock to death.”

LabTech, which owns Camden Market, refused to comment when we asked them whether they used a hawk as pest control.

Almost every afternoon in Camden Town a mystery man, usually wearing shorts and with a small push scooter, appears in Buck Street and drops bags of grain for pigeons to flock down and eat.

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