Man Versus Seagulls a Tough Job at San Francisco Trash Site

You could feel the eyes tracing your every step through Recology’s recycling yard at the southern edge of San Francisco. Thousands of them. From every rooftop and scrap heap.

In the doorways - feasting on garbage. Indigo Redondo seemed oblivious to the watchful glances as he opened the camper shell of his small pickup and began laying out his day’s implements.

“They know something’s coming,” he said, calmly slipping on a thick leather glove and coaxing his three-year old Harris hawk named Nina onto it.

Two months ago, Redondo reprised his job at Recology - attempting to chase thousands of seagulls around the facility in a Sisyphean attempt to keep them from dining on garbage and dropping it in the nearby bay. Redondo was aided in his endeavor by the hawk, a dog, a long pole he waves about and a shepherd’s whistle.

“They don’t give up very easily,” Redondo said. “You can move them around and they return.”

Redondo and the hawk padded over to a building with a robust flock of seagulls roosting warily on the roof. A handful took wing at the mere site of the pair, while others chose to stubbornly stick it out. Redondo released the hawk which flew to the edge of the metal roof and took a seat. The mere sight incited a blizzard of wings as the seagulls hastily peeled off.

“Seagulls are hard wired to know what a predator is,” Redondo said extending the glove to recall the hawk. He briefly admired the bird-free roof before pointing out another nearby rooftop where the birds had regrouped.

“All day long it’s just never ending,” he said.

It should be pointed-out Redondo and his crew aren’t out to hurt the seagulls, just harass them. His hawk is trained to simply hang out, which in the pecking order of the bird world, seems more than adequate to move other birds along.

“Actually I like the seagulls, Redondo offered. “But they belong in their place.”

On occasion Redondo will stroll about the yard dodging garbage trucks with his dog who was elated to chase off seagulls - and probably doesn’t even realize it was doing a job.

On occasion, Redondo will wave a 12-foot pole with a cloth tied to end, blowing on a shrill whistle to move the critters along. After a while of waving, he noticed the birds had now returned to the original spot where they hawk had made its menacing impression.

“The seagulls are very smart.” Redondo said. “People often make the remark of ‘oh they’ve got bird brains, they’re small brains, they can’t figure anything out.’ But actually they’re very smart.”
Redondo is always adding new tricks to his abatement arsenal.

He recently purchased an ultrasonic sound bird repellent machine which he plans to install on one of the facility’s roofs. And on occasion he’ll whip out a laser pointer which seemed to have the same effect as releasing a mean looking hawk.

“I think the answer really is to keep the birds moving,” Recology spokesman Robert Reed said, “so they kind of don’t want to live here.”

Eventually, Redondo and his animals took a lunch break, and it appeared the seagulls did too - flocking back to the piles of foods scraps to enjoy a bountiful feast. Redondo eyed his flocks of foes and enjoyed the brief respite from his shooing responsibilities.

“It’s a satisfying job,” Redondo said. “But at the same time it can be frustrating.”

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