Birds stay away from refineries


Sep 04, 2007

“Birds flee refineries” described how falconry is used to naturally freighten off large numbers of pest birds in industrial facilities, specifically Sunoco’s Frankfort, Pa. refinery in January, 2005.

Now Ronin Air Falconry Services (RAFS, reports that the plant, RAF’s first refinery site, has demonstrated 100% abatement after just two consecutive winter visits. “This was a year earlier than we expected,” says Jeff Diaz, RAFS director. “Apparently some smaller plants can achieve this sooner than the projected three or four years.”

The programs introduce trained falcons, hawks and owls from late afternoon through the night to trigger the hunter/hunted fear instinct inherent in birds, especially starlings, blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles and pigeons. RAFS surveys and conducts an assessment of each site to strategize an aggressive program incorporating falconry with a number of additional abatement techniques.

“After the first several days or so, 80% to 90% of the population leaves. Management sees the results by the end of the first week with general amazement,” says Diaz. “The remaining 14 days to 21 days are spent battling the die-hard, stubborn birds, all of which must be removed. The second season, far fewer than half return.”

The objective is 100% permanent abatement of the pest bird population, and RAFS programs are fully guaranteed. “The client must commit to several consecutive winter visits, and to conduct individual maintenance procedures designed for their site.”

Proposals generally state 14 days to 21 days plus expenses. The largest facilities take 28 days, easy ones a seven-day minimum. Once the process is started, not one night can be skipped. “Christmas and New Year’s Day don’t matter to the alpha starlings,” Diaz says. “If they can break through and take lost ground – areas where they were recently abated – the entire process can be jeopardized.”

Though seldom discussed by sensitive plant PR people, bird infestations are a significant health hazard. Diaz met an individual who, from one contact with dry pigeon feces, contracted histoplasmosis and, because of a late diagnosis, went permanently blind. “We know of 40 diseases that humans can get from bird feces, and that one is the worst,” he says, “But cryptococossis and meningitis are bad, too, and I won't even mention Asian Bird Flu.”

Some pest control contractors use dangerous or even illegal poisons (arsenic, cyanide, strychnine, etc.) or passive poisons. “What people don't realize is poisoned, slowly dying but surviving birds can get eaten by endangered bald eagles, peregrine falcons, house cats or dogs,” Diaz adds. “These are a serious threat to our environment and should be banned. One of our greatest rewards is being able to provide clients with our environmental falconry alternative to poisons. It’s also much more effective.”

The service must be performed in season (generally October through April, depending on the weather).

The company is currently including one or more Raptor Orientation Presentations for a school, club, scout, church, park ranger, game warden, senior home and other community groups. “They are very educational, covering raptor habits and biology, sport falconry and finally bird abatement falconry,” says Diaz. “It communicates to the public that the plant is applying an environmental, ‘green’ approach to a pest control problem.”