Northwick Park Hospital security extends to the skies as two birds of prey are recruited to help scare pigeons away.
Clyde and Zeus, respectively, usually patrol the site once a week but pigeons are rarely on the menu with trainer Adam Jarvis ensuring his Harris Hawks aren’t hungry enough to snack on the local population.
“It’s a delicate balance and we weight the birds every day to within a couple of ounces of their optimum weight. Their job is to scare pigeons away, not eat them.”
An estimated one million pigeons roost in London carrying diseases including Listeria and E-coli while their droppings are so acidic they can corrode metal, stone and brickwork.
The hawks – known as ‘pest birds’ in the industry – have to be well trained to both avoid attacking pigeons as well as responding to their trainer’s commands.
Adam, who works for BTP Environmental Services, said: “New birds undergo several months of training so they get used to being around people, traffic and responding to commands. We reinforce them coming back to us by rewarding them with scraps of meat.
“Hawks can see several times as far as the human eye so are always aware of where I am and what I am doing. I normally walk around the hospital site and release the birds when I see a congregation of pigeons.”
The hawks typically fly 4-5 hours a day across various sites but are currently grounded. Clyde is having his yearly feather moult while Zeus is recovering from a broken leg.
“They are both doing well and I am looking forward to going out with them again soon,” added Adam who keeps the pair in his back garden.
His own interest in birds of prey began as a teenage volunteer working at the English School of Falconry where he handled hawks, falcons, owls and a Condor called Tiny.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with birds of prey and had my own long before I joined the company. I’m lucky my day job is also my passion.”