Jack Brady has found a way to make a living through his love of birds. He uses raptors, or birds of prey, to control undesirable birds as a form of pest control.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching birds as a child,” Brady said. “The raptors have always been my favorite. What better way to watch them than to use them for hunting?”
Brady specializes in grackle abatement, but can use his birds in almost any situation.
“Any birds that people have a problem with I can get rid of,” Brady said.
He uses three trained Harris hawks, one Peregrine falcon and a Cooper’s hawk to ward off more unsavory birds like the noisy grackle.
“Nuisance birds can’t defend themselves from repeated attacks from a wide array of hawks and falcons coming at them day and night,” Brady said. “Even though I do catch a few birds, mostly it’s a scare tactic.”
When Brady first began testing the waters with his new business, he brought one of the Harris hawks to Tarleton State University and turned her loose near a tree filled with grackles.
Jim Pack, who was the physical plant director for Tarleton at the time, said he was stunned by what he saw.
“We had tried all kinds of things to rid the university of grackles,” Pack said. “I was very impressed by what I saw that night. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. The grackles flew every which way.”
“You would have thought someone set off a hand grenade,” Brady said.
The grackles flew out of the tree with about a dozen of the birds killing themselves by flying into the side of the building. He said the remaining birds were gone within seconds.
He then tried out Holley, the Peregrine falcon, on a peanut field with matching results.
Brady said many of his clients have used mechanical bird abatement techniques in the past with limited success.
The traditional method is a chemical application, commonly a grape seed extract known as Bird Be Gone. The concoction leaves a bad taste on fruit and crops, but does little to deter birds from roosting in trees.
Other methods include playing bird distress calls or recorded shots paired with pyrotechnics, but Brady said birds quickly become acclimated to the sound and soon return.
“But I’ve never seen a bird become acclimated to a hawk waxing its brethren left and right,” Brady said.
He also said studies in bird abatement have shown that shooting and killing birds is the most effective way to rid an area of nuisance birds and falconry is the second.
“But you can’t shoot firearms in city limits and the pyrotechnics disturb neighbors,” Brady said.
Even though demand for his line of work has increased, Brady said there are very few companies in the state fully licensed to use falconry as a form of pest control because it takes years of training.
Brady served as a falconry apprentice for two years before moving up to the general level. He worked with a master falconer for five years before he was able to become one. Brady said when he works with raptors he only trains them to return - not to kill.
“They’re already genetically inclined to kill,” Brady said. “I train them to come back to me - especially at night - using a lure with food. They’re coming back to be fed.”
When at work, if the bird returns with a caught bird, Brady takes it away so the raptor is inclined to go back out.
Brady said the US Fish and Wildlife (USFW) opened the door for the industry by allowing master falconers to use captive-bred raptors in the field.
“The birds I use have to be captive-bred - or produced in captivity,” Brady said. “The US Fish and Wildlife wouldn’t be too happy if people started taking and selling natural resources.”
Morticia, the Cooper’s hawk, is the only bird Brady has that was born in the wild. He doesn’t charge clients if he uses her on the site.
In addition to being a master falconer, Brady must maintain a hunting license, pest control license, Texas pesticide application license, USFW abatement using raptors permit, state and federal falconry permits and insurance.
He must also be aware which birds are protected and which ones are not. Brady said only three birds in Texas are not protected, the pigeon, house sparrow and starling.
However, other birds like the grackle can be abated if they are damaging crops, but proper permits must be obtained before he can clear a site.
Because the industry is still budding, Brady said members from the Texas Hawking Association formed the Texas Association of Avian Abatement Professionals to set up a system of quality control.
For more information on falconry or pest control, contact Brady at (254) 396-0787 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.