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Meet the Birds of Prey Keeping Gulls Under Control in Ocean City

Seagulls at Boardwalk

A few months ago, we reported on the humorous viral story of the Blackpool Zoo’s human seagull deterrents. The zoo’s job posting made waves around the world with its request for outgoing, friendly, and visitor focused applicants who would be comfortable wearing a giant bird costume. You read that right. The Blackpool Zoo advertised its need for human scarecrows — or scare-gulls — to dress in a giant bird costume and chase away the seagulls that had become a nuisance.

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This solution to nuisance seagulls may be unusual, but the complaint of gulls stealing food, harassing visitors, and generally overstaying their welcome is commonplace in many coastal areas, and even some inland regions. Seagulls are gregarious, bold, opportunistic, and notoriously food-motivated. It’s no surprise that these birds tend to take up residence in areas with high foot traffic and plenty of food. Like Ocean City, New Jersey.

Ocean City New Jersey is home to a popular boardwalk which boasts theme parks with thrill rides, movie theatres, and a variety of stores and restaurants. The boardwalk and downtown areas of Ocean City are obvious attractants for gulls. To combat this, Ocean City employs East Coast Falcons. East Coast Falcons is a company which employs falconers for the purpose of seagull abatement. East Coast Falcons has been serving Ocean City since 2019.

Despite the company’s name, falcons are not the only birds that the falconers employ to control the gulls. Two Harris’s Hawks and a Eurasian Eagle-owl also serve on Ocean City’s seagull patrol.

This abatement strategy is not all that different from the Blackpool Zoo’s strategy. Both take advantage of the fact that birds of prey are the natural predators of seagulls. Instead of a human in a costume, though, Ocean City’s raptors are the real deal.

Collaborative relationships between humans and birds of prey are some of the most human-animal partnerships around. Dating as far back as 6,000 BC, humans have relied on trained birds of prey as hunting companions. Now, they may just disperse one of the Jersey Shore’s most notorious pests.

As far as the seagulls are concerned, this abatement program is likely to have overall positive effects on them too. When populations of seagulls are fed by humans — either intentionally or by force — their numbers inflate beyond what the habitat can support. They can’t stop eating human food because there are too many of them to survive on their natural diet. Human food isn’t healthy for them and this lack of balance in the shore’s ecosystem isn’t healthy for anyone. Instead of harmful pest control methods that may impact other animals, these raptors have a real shot at bringing this ecosystem into balance by letting nature do its job.

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