Team earns its wings each and every day

Richard Hall at BAE with a Peregrine Saker Hybrid Falcon used to scare away other birds.
Richard Hall at BAE with a Peregrine Saker Hybrid Falcon used to scare away other birds.
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WHILE BAE Systems may have won a £2.5bn contract to supply Hawk jets to Oman, it’s a different bird of prey keeping the company’s Warton airfield running on a day-to-day basis.

BAE employs a team of falcons working round the clock to make sure other birds stay out of the aeroplane engines being tested on the site.

And according to their owner, the falcons have played a vital role in keeping the runways avian free to allow crucial aeroplane testing to go ahead.

Ian Whittaker, who runs North West Bird Control and has trained falcons for 15 years, said: “Falcons have been used for bird scaring for many years and BAE brought the falcons in because they had particular problems with gulls.

“The falcon is a visual deterrent so you get it to fly around as though it’s hunting.

“If there’s no birds because they’ve been scared away it’s done its job, it’s a pro-active thing.

“Crows tend to be quite crafty but 96 per cent of all birds will be scared away by the falcon.”

The species’ eyesight is around 2.6 times better than that of humans.

It takes around seven months to fully train a falcon to work on the airbase’s perimeter, where they learn to simulate hunting swoops without actually catching the prey.

Ian, whose falconry empire also includes similar work at Blackpool Airport, added: “You want them to fly fairly high but not to hunt, which goes against their instincts.

“Sometimes birds start hunting and then we take them out of service because they’re out of control.”