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Calgary hospital adopts baby falcons to fight pigeon problem

Click to play video: 'South Health Campus brings in raptors to reduce pigeons' South Health Campus brings in raptors to reduce pigeons
WATCH: Pigeons roosting on the roof of the South Calgary Health Campus are making a mess, and now AHS is taking a clever approach to a pesky problem. Mia Sosiak reports – Jul 5, 2017

The rooftop of South Health Campus in Calgary is now home to three peregrine falcons — two females and one male — that will hopefully help reduce the flock of pigeons that have roosted there since the hospital opened.

After spending tens of thousands of dollars on pigeon control that did not work, hospital officials wanted to try an alternative way to control the pigeons.

READ MORE: Watch for Peregrine falcons at Calgary’s Foothills hospital with new nesting box

“We were look for ways of stopping them from coming around, and we’ve tried different things like spike belts and noise machines, and none of them seemed to work very well,” said Jay Newman, a hospital engineer who headed up the initiative.

Newman says that there are often hundreds of pigeons that land on the roof, causing concerns about cleanliness and sanitation.

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“With the mess that they make it becomes a sanitary issue, and it is a hospital, so we don’t want to be tracking anything through the hospital, diseases or anything like that,” he said.

He also believes that the pigeons pose a safety risk, as they often perch along the edges of the helicopter pad, making landings more dangerous.

An electrician on staff suggested bringing in raptors, and Alberta raptor expert and breeder John Campbell was hired to introduce them to the hospital rooftop.

Campbell advised the in-house carpenters and engineers on proper housing for the peregrines.

He has been feeding them a steady diet of pigeons so they get a taste for them, and monitoring their health since moving them to the pen a couple weeks ago.

“When they’re old enough to fly, we open it up and let them fly and then continue to feed them same as the adults would do,” Campbell said.

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He believes that the project will offer benefits beyond pigeon control, by helping to reintroduce peregrine falcons to Southern Alberta.

“In 1970, there was only one pair in the province. Now we have maybe 80 pair, most of them are in the north — over half of them — so they’re not doing very well here.”

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He believes the male and two females are some of the only peregrine falcons in Southern Alberta, and he is optimistic that they will breed and increase the population.

He is also hopeful that more institutions will try this method to solve pigeon issues.

“I think this is a very good, creative initiative. We’ve got to do a better job of working with wildlife and here’s a case of a species that’s moving in and learning to live with us, so we should try to learn to live with them.”

The hospital also plans on broadcasting a video feed of the falcons’ activity throughout the hospital, for the interest of patients and staff.

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