Hawkeyed: raptors liberate US beach town from hungry gulls

  • Saturday 24, August 2019 10:21 AM
Sharjah24 – AFP: For years, tourists enjoying the picturesque boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey have had to deal with some unwelcome visitors: marauding seagulls intent on stealing their lunch.
"It's not that pleasurable to have to guard your food," said Hilary Larkin, who has been vacationing at the seaside resort for 36 years.

"But that's what you do because you know that there will be a bird there to have a little bite to eat," she added.

Well, not anymore, thanks to the introduction of Ozzy, Sage, Hank, Gabriela, OC and Blackberry -- six hawkeyed birds of prey sent to keep hungry seagulls at bay.

The group of raptors -- which includes falcons, Harris's hawks and a Eurasian eagle-owl -- have been patrolling Ocean City night and day this month as part of a new initiative to scare away pesky gulls.

"Multiple raptors constantly on the boardwalk creates an environment for seagulls where it is just not worth trying to steal a fry," falconer PJ Simonis told AFP.

Ocean City, about 130 miles (200 kilometers) south of New York, welcomes 150,000 vacationers every summer.

They come for the beaches, Atlantic Ocean views, and countless snack bars and ice cream stands.

Thousands upon thousands of seagulls follow them, though, regularly swooping down to pluck French fries or funnel cake from the hands of unsuspecting tourists, sometimes leaving children in tears.

The city's government decided enough was enough and tasked East Coast Falcons -- a group of falconers more used to protecting airports, farmland and landfill sites against invading birds -- to do something about them.

Although the raptors could easily kill the seagulls, they have been trained not to.