Birds of prey seize the day

Associated Press
In this Oct. 28, 2013 photo, Daniel Hedin, 28, kisses Mia, a 5-year-old Harris hawk at the Olinda Alpha landfill in Brea, Calif. Hedin, is a subcontractor for Airstrike Bird Control, a falcon-based bird abatement company. The landfill in Brea hired the falconer to fly his birds of prey to scare away the seagulls. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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The Olinda Alpha landfill has declared war on the nuisance birds, but rather than using air cannons or high-tech scarecrows, it's fighting fliers with fliers. The dump on a plateau high above suburban Orange County is part of an explosion in falconry for profit in recent years, with one-time hobbyists launching their raptors into the skies above vineyards, farms, landfills, shopping complexes and golf courses nationwide.

The number of professional falconers nationwide is tiny, but recent changes in federal guidelines have nevertheless created a niche industry that's growing rapidly and changing the dynamics of a sport that dates back millennia. Since 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has granted 99 special permits to use captive-bred birds of prey for "bird abatement" to chase away avian pests such as starlings, grackles and seagulls. (Associated Press)

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