Following a successful pilot program at El Cerrito del Norte station, 12 BART stations will be using birds of prey to keep pigeons away starting next year.
The BART Board of Directors approved the program expansion in a meeting Thursday. Richmond, Walnut Creek, Pittsburg / Bay Point, San Leandro, Coliseum, Hayward, South Hayward, Glen Park, Balboa Park, South San Francisco and San Bruno stations will join El Cerrito del Norte, according to BART Storyteller Michelle Robertson.
“Since it’s been so successful, staff are recommending that we have a bigger contract and use the services at 12 stations so we can address our pigeon problem throughout the system,” said BART Director Rebecca Saltzman before the vote.
The contract includes a base term of three years and two optional one-year options up to a maximum term of five years before renewal. The cost for the five-year agreement totals more than $2.6 million. Additional birds will be required, Robertson noted, with multiple birds in rotation servicing each station.
The BART contract with Falcon Force notes that an abundant pigeon population necessitates bird control. It adds that reducing pest birds and their droppings will help maintain safety — droppings on platforms can cause a slippery surface — and prevent facade damage to buildings.
Saltzman said BART stations’ high structures attract pigeons to go into the roofs and build nests.
“In my 11 years at BART, BART has tried a myriad of different solutions,” Saltzman said. “Spikes, all sorts of things to try to keep the pigeons away, you know, some with some success, some with no success, but none of them have really solved the problem.”
Falconry-based bird abatement is an eco-friendly and safe solution to deterring pigeons from the premises, the contract states.
In 2022, BART hired Falcon Force — a business that offers professional bird abatement services — as a response to the prevalence of pigeons and their droppings at the El Cerrito del Norte station, according to a 2022 BART press release. The program introduced a Harris hawk named Pac-Man, who visits the station with his handler eight hours a day, three times a week.
This method of bird abatement has been proven successful at other locations too; according to Falcon Force, it is effective in deterring pest birds at farms and landfills.
The BART press release states that the fast-paced environment of the El Cerrito del Norte station doesn’t bother Pac-Man: Harris hawks are used to business and are “mellow birds, and the only social raptor,” making them ideal for this work. The system is based on natural predator-prey relationships between the species, according to the Falcon Force website.
“The stairs would just be covered with pigeon droppings, and now they’re not,” Saltzman said. “It’s a big difference and it means there’s a lot less time that BART staff has spent on cleaning all that up.”