PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Walk along the streets of downtown Portland at night in October and you might see someone in a vest that says “Crow Patrol.”
These four to five people, along with their hawks, are doing exactly as the vest says: patrolling downtown Portland for crows.
Kort Clayton, owner of Integrated Avian Solutions said as the nights grow longer and the days get colder, crows throughout the city of Portland flock to downtown where they find it easier to see at night thanks to the many street lights.
“There’s lots of trees. They’re comfortable. They have a lot of history coming into that location, so that’s where they want to be and that’s not where we allow them to be,” Clayton said.
This is the sixth year Integrated Avian Solutions has worked with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe to use birds of prey to move the crows around. The company focuses on a 72-block radius that’s centered around Pioneer Courthouse Square. The falconers work four nights a week from October through April.
Clayton estimates about 15,000 crows come to downtown Portland every night to roost. These native birds don’t cause much harm, but they do make a mess.
They poop everywhere.
“When they come in at dark and don’t leave until sunrise, you have the result of all their daily intake splashed all over the sidewalk and the streets,” he said.
And when that daily intake comes out, it doesn’t just land on flat surfaces. It gets on street signs, bus stops, benches, cars parked on the curb — and even people’s heads.
Businesses and other downtown entities are responsible for cleaning up the fecal matter left behind by murders of crows and that gets expensive.
Since Integrated Avian Solutions started working with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe six years ago, Clayton said he’s helped save people thousands of dollars in cleanup costs.
Downtown Portland Clean & Safe, the agency that provides cleaning and security services downtown, said the crows create issues with cleanliness and sanitation.
“In the past, we have power washed and even have used a device called ‘The Poopmaster-2000’ to attempt to keep the sidewalks, rails, benches and street furnishings clean,” said Katie Mongue, senior director of strategic communications for Portland Business Alliance.
To encourage the crows to not stay in one place too long, Clayton and his team use Harris hawks to fly around between the downtown buildings. They’ll release the hawks when they find a concentration of crows in trees or on a building. The hawk doesn’t fly at the crows or chase them and doesn’t try to catch them. Simply releasing the hawk and allowing it to fly near the crows is enough to motivate them to move to another area.
“We just create that really unpleasant presence for them and they move away from that,” Clayton said.
The falconers allow their birds to wander around from building to building downtown and they always return to their handler in search of a treat. Some hawks are trained to follow a laser point and can therefore be directed to specific areas.
Integrated Avian Solutions will continue to follow the crows until they clear out their 72-block radius.
Clayton said Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a great place to push the crows to because it’s still well-lit, but the effects of crow poop in a park aren’t nearly as severe as they are near the buildings.
For decades, raptors have been used to manage nuisance birds like pigeons, starlings and seagulls, but using them to usher around crows in an urban area was a novel idea created in Portland, Clayton said.
Since Portland adopted the method, Integrated Avian Solutions has expanded its services to other west coast towns like Sacramento, Hanford and Madera in California. Clayton said he contracts with falconers wherever he can find them.
Mongue said hiring Integrated Avian Solutions has been very effective for the last six years. She said using hawks to move the crows around has limited their impact and their droppings on humans in the urban core.
“Our crow abatement program is a great example of thinking outside the box and looking for alternative solutions to common problems,” Mongue said.
On Thursday, Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. Downtown Portland Clean & Safe and Integrated Avian Solutions will host an urban falconry demonstration. The public is invited to attend to see how the trained hawks assist with the abatement of roosting crows.
Integrated Avian Solutions will give a presentation and answer questions at 6 p.m. and those in attendance can see the demonstration at 640 p.m. The presentation will take place at 900 SW 5th Ave. at the fountain in front of The Standard Insurance Center.
Families and children are invited to attend and bird-themed treats will be provided.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said Integrated Avian Solutions works with the city of Portland to move the crows. It works with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe. The article has been corrected.