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Seagull hunting by raptors in the city of Aalborg:

The Harris Hawks and the Redtails Buzzard’s are terrorizing the seagulls – 78 seagulls and 23 feral pigeons killed on the university campus area this year (2020), but it’s more about stressing the seagulls than killing them – but the seagulls are also doing their part to drive the Gamehawker Falconry Service out of the area

AALBORG: There is something going on in the air at the university area in Aalborg East this summer morning.

Steevo, Sif, Storm and Jes Bell’s Harris Hawk and the two Redtails Buzzard’s are at work. We are not talking about a study group at Aalborg University but about the fear of the seagulls, because the six employees from Gamehawker Falconry Service are birds of prey who regulate the seagulls on the large university campus with lots of flat roofs that attract the seagulls for breeding places.

Nailed by the hawk’s – two who lost the battle

When NORDJYSKE Medier lands in the area, it is a Harris Hawk (a hawk, ed.) with the appropriate name Steevo that stamps in. However, the airspace above the university campus is unusually empty. When the Gamehawker Falconry Service arrived, there were otherwise 20 seagulls sitting on one of the rooftops, but they evaporated. The falconry company headed by owner Preben Schøpzinsky has continuously regulated in the area since the beginning of February, and for several years AAU has been the company’s biggest customer.

– We have cleaned the area, there is actually nothing out here, so understand that when we started out here in February, there were probably 1000 seagulls, and then we stress them out, says Preben Schøpzinsky, who very appropriately has a company address on Eagle Road in the town of Farsø.

Gamehawker Falconer Service’s, led by Preben Schøpzinsky, has been in the air since 2015. Photo: Henrik Bo

He points out that they have never had such good results as this year.

– There is no doubt that it is because we have been around a lot, and we have had nine different birds with us, and this stresses the seagulls.

This year, the company has killed 78 seagulls, 23 feral pigeons and used 805 hours with birds in the air.

– If there had been seagulls in the area, we would of course have gone after them, says Jes Bell, who is employed as a falconer in the company and involved in the task.

He has a Harris Hawk and two red-tailed buzzards with him in the car.

Like in a western

– You’ve probably seen cowboy movies with John Wayne, haven’t you. It lives over on the American prairie, and I remember that when I was a kid watching these cowboy movies, there was always a bird in the air that screamed extremely loudly, and that was the redtail’s, says Preben Schøpzinsky.

A continuous stress and scare campaign with birds of prey against the seagulls is something that works on campus.

– It’s actually more about stressing the seagulls than killing them. Birds are designed in such a way that if they do not pass on their genes and get the youngs on the wings, they want to go elsewhere to breed.

Gamehawker Falconer Service’s uses birds of prey to keep seagulls away from the campus area in Aalborg East. Photo: Henrik Bo

Before Steevo takes off on the day’s task, it refuels with pieces of day-old chickens. Otherwise, the birds of prey also get quails and pigeons plus the prey that they put to work. The crew of Gamehawker Falconry Service they respectively walk and drive around the area, and then the birds follow. On the roof of the company car is a green roof rack that the hawk can sit on.

A pair of seagulls suddenly pass high above.

– You can see that they are flying high, they don’t really want to come down and talk to us.

With a top speed of 80 kilometers per hour and vision that can see the hole in a two-crown at a distance of 1.2 kilometers, almost like a falcon, Steevo has good prerequisites for catching seagulls.

On the ground, Preben Schøpzinsky uses the whistle diligently and controls Steevo.

Females are preferred

You primarily hunt with the females.

– In Arizona, the males walk the ground and hunt the rabbits out from the hides, and then the female waits to take and kill them.

At one point, a woman who is walking a small dog stop to look at the scenario, which causes the warning lights to flash in Preben Schøpzinsky, who shouts.

– Please take care of your dog madam.

Falconer Jes Bell with one of the Redtails Buzzard’s. Photo: Henrik Bo

Steevo also has a taste for dogs.

– She is especially fond of dogs. The others we fly with are more or less indifferent. She is very aggressive. You have to be careful so that we don’t have any accidents, says Jes Bell.

Later on the trip, Steevo is just down to sniff a flock of ducks in the canal but without a tick on the casualty list. Steevo, on the other hand, is put down on the job herself when she flies into a window, but she is quickly on the wings again.

– It’s because she sees a mirror image of herself, says Preben Schøpzinsky.

In 2018, legislation opened the way for birds of prey to be used for regulation in Denmark, but this working day there are not many seagulls on the radar. When the regulation season starts, however, the seagull situation is completely different on campus.

They’re chasing me

– Then we could hardly stand here and talk, there is so much screaming, and they attack us outright. They have decided that they want to breed here, and then we come, as it were, into their territory, and then we have to be chased out with violence and force. When they see me with this hat, they simply chase me, says Preben Schøpzinsky.

The terror of the seagulls already begins to patrol the airspace above the campus in early February. Photo: Henrik Bo

Jes Bell adds that the seagulls quickly get to know the falconer car.

– When we leave the cars and we come back, they have simply exceeded the cars to get us away.

On the campus grounds, Hunter is still patrolling in the sunshine.

– They do not fly further than they have visual contact with us, but it is not always that we have visual contact with them.

Steevo knocked herself out when she flew into a window during working hours. Photo: Henrik Bo

However, the birds of prey are also fitted with a GPS transmitter, because it has been seen that the bird has flown.

– We have a bird which flew of, we went out to collect it at Aalborg Portlands dumping site, eight kilometers from where we were.

On campus, Steevo is cleared to land again after controlling the airspace.

– Shall we say that you have time off now, says the owner.

Gamehawker Falconry Service went live in 2015, but working with the birds has been a lifelong interest of Preben Schøpzinsky, who was trained in 1959 by his grandfather, who caught sparrowhawks in the wild and trained them to catch delicate partridges in the sugarbeet fields.

A huge seagull problem

Falconer Jes Bell and he’s hawk has caught a prey

At Aalborg University, a few years ago they chose to get help from the air when, according to the head of Campus Service, Alex Røge Hermansen, they had a very big seagull problem.

– Initially, it was an attempt because we didn’t want people to see a regulation hunter out here with a firearm. We don’t think that was really compatible with the fact that it is an educational institution where there are also many international students, says Alex Røge Hermansen.

He is very satisfied with the result.

– It is with some success. At least we have far fewer seagulls on campus now breeding than before.

Alex Røge Hermansen points out that it requires persistent effort to get there.

– Right next to it, there are lots of areas where the seagulls can breed and where we can’t fly.

Stopped drains

Aalborg University started using the Gamehawker Falconry Service when they had a huge seagull problem. Photo: Henrik Bo

AAU would like to put an end to the seagulls breeding, because the nests can block roof drains, which causes water damage.

In addition, the seagulls’ extremities destroy, among other things, the university’s coverings, tables and benches, just as the seagull army provides large expenses for cleaning windows and facades. And then there is one more reason

– When the seagulls get the young on their wings, they are very aggressive, and we have experienced several times that you are chased by an aggressive seagull, and that is not particularly interesting either.

Source: NORDJYSKE Medier

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