How Falcons Improved Tourism at the Jersey Shore

Seagulls like food, but they hate hawks

A falcon
A falcon in flight.
Kamil Szumotalski/Unsplash

At their best, birds can transform an outdoor space into something transcendent — there’s nothing quite like the sound of birdsong to make a yard or park sound that much more lively. Sometimes, however, the behavior of bird can make a big difference — there is, after all, a reason that the phrase “pigeon mitigation” comes up in various public works projects. (It would also make for an amazing metal band name, in my opinion.)

That’s a situation not dissimilar to the one faced by the local government in the shore town of Ocean City, New Jersey. As a new article in the New York Times Magazine details, the town’s location was attracting plenty of people intrigued by the beaches there. Where abundant people live, however, also means that a literal flock of seagulls also descended on the place.

If you’ve ever tried to eat a meal or a snack while an aggrieved gull attempts to peck at it, you know the drama that this can prompt. That’s what led Ocean City’s mayor to look into an unexpected solution: a company that brought hawks to the boardwalk, where the gulls suddenly seemed far less interested in congregating.

As the article points out, there’s a long history of hawks and falcons being used both for hunting and other purposes. (Helen Macdonald’s memoir H Is For Hawk is highly recommended.) And if there’s a way to drive off seagulls during the tourist season without chemicals or other possibly toxic methods, that’s all the better.

Admittedly, this also sounds like a real-life version of the Simpsons episode in which a series of different species were used to dispatch other species. This story sounds like it has a happier ending, though, in that no mammals froze to death in the process.


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