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GSA Region 8 Finds Creative Solution to Pest Problem

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The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Vatican. Iconic landmarks like these are known for many things. Rats, termites, cockroaches, bats. Probably not what you were thinking, right? Pests are something all property owners have to deal with and many famous buildings have made headlines because of a pest problem or infestation.

Pest control itself isn’t usually that interesting. You notice a problem, you call an exterminator. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, sometimes. When solar panels were installed on the rooftop of the Denver Federal Center (DFC) Building 810, GSA didn’t foresee a pigeon infestation that would cause damage to the roof and surrounding infrastructure and raise health concerns due to excessive droppings. 

After trying a variety of techniques to remove the birds with varying levels of success, Marion Buntyn, the building manager and GSA Region 8 sustainability guru, proposed a more effective, sustainable way to tackle this issue.

R8 Marion Buntyn Hawk Story Pull Quote


R8 hawk photo closeup
This red-tail hawk is one of the raptors used by Wings Over Colorado for bird mitigation. Photograph by Richard Stebbins

Buntyn recommended a three-pronged approach that had a proven track record and would be environmentally friendly. The first step was live-trapping the birds and relocating them to an off-campus facility with a flight cage to manage the birds in a captive environment. Second, was chasing off the remaining birds using trained hawks and falcons to show the area was no longer safe to roost and hatch chicks. Last, was power washing and repairing the rooftop to prevent the pigeons from going back to familiar areas as well as extend the life of the roof itself.

For step two of this strategy, B

untyn contacted Wings Over Colorado (WOC), a contractor that is currently the only bird abatement company in the state that uses falconry techniques to manage pest birds. WOC uses Harris Hawks, Aplamato Falcons and Hybrid Falcons to chase pigeons. This company trains their raptors in Colorado Springs and uses them all over the state, including at Coors Field and Mile High Stadium to reduce pigeon clusters at sporting events.

“I did a lot of research regarding the use of falconry techniques for pest bird management and it is a very common practice at landfills and to protect vineyards or other fruit-growing orchards,” said Buntyn. “This is a highly effective practice that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.” Eventually it will be a maintenance service and hawks and falcons won’t have to do flyovers as frequently. 

“This is a five-year contract to see how effective this technique is for using a more environmentally friendly approach to manage pests around our buildings and developing best management practices to share with other regions,” Buntyn stated. 

To date, GSA has seen a 60% decrease in the pigeon population at the DFC and less waste is accumulating under the solar panels. WOC is now doing hawk flyovers at the downtown Denver Federal District buildings to help with the pigeon population there and next year, Buntyn and WOC will be installing nesting boxes for kestrels, barn owls and bats to increase the predator presence on the DFC campus. The kestrels and owls will help to control small mammals, such as mice, voles and rabbits. The bats would be used to reduce the mosquito population near areas of standing water and discourage swallows from nesting on the sides of buildings.

If you have questions about this unique program, please contact Marion Buntyn at 720.788.5460.


Read more of the Region 8 "We Are Green" series: