Falconry at Downey

Alexis Gutierrez, Writer

On Apr. 9, Downey High School had their first day of abatement, which is when a trained predator bird, either a falcon or hawk, flies around to intimidate and control the other birds and vermin. Then after a certain period of time, depending on the falconer, the targeted prey will not come to that territory anymore out of fear of the raptor.


Seagulls are a frequent dilemma at Downey High.  Seagull droppings can cause structural damage to rooftops, cars, and street lamps; this is because of the large amount of uric acid found in seagull droppings.


Downey High’s principal, Tom Houts,  hired a specialist falconer company, Adams Falconry Services to help resolve the issue.


“Our students and staff are tired of getting pooped on,” Houts said. “Mrs. Quintero was at Seaworld recently and she saw a falcon or hawk there making sure that other birds weren’t bothering the guest; a lot of places like that do it often.”  


The company sent an abatement professional and falconer, Veonte Barnes, who comes every day for two weeks with a company hawk named Cheyenne. After two weeks of constant flying of Cheyenne, he will then come three times a week and as time goes by he will come less and less.


Barnes, an apprentice falconer and abatement professional speaks on the progress he’s seen since the start of the abatement process.


“Since we started last week, I noticed that we had probably about twice the amount of birds that we have now,” Barnes said. “Falconry isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.”


Since starting the abatement method, the amount of seagulls and pigeons at Downey has decreased. With twenty pigeons caught in the new pigeon traps on the roof of the Downey buildings, Adams Falconry Services will relocate the bundles of pigeons.


Dr. Connie Quinter, an assistant principal at Downey High, speaks on her experience with the Seagulls at Downey.


“One time I had to use the hand soap from the bathroom and the water from the sink to rinse the bird poop out of my hair,” Quintero said. “Were hoping that we can get a natural way to use nature to combat nature.”


Cheyenne is a nine month old Harris hawk who has been trained with Veonte, she is a medium-large breed hawk with broad wings and medium sized feet, she is bred to be an abatement hawk.


The company has 12 falconers, with each falconer having one or two birds.  This amounts to an approximate 15 falcons and 30 hawks resulting in up to 45 of these abatement birds. The number of abatement birds rises especially in August which is falconry season.