The Japanese language doesn’t really differentiate between crows and ravens, commonly calling both karasu, and if you’ve spent much time in Japan, it’s easy to see why. Japanese crows are much larger than their American counterparts, with gigantic beaks and sharp talons.
They’re also incredibly intelligent and social creatures, and once they find a place they like to hang out, it’s not long before all the other crows in the area start gathering there too. Recently, a large group of crows has been regularly occupying the roof of city hall in Matsuyama, the capital of Ehime Prefecture on Japan’s island of Shikoku, and the local government has decided to fight fire with fire, or at least birds with another stronger, tougher bird.
That’s Haris’s hawk Sui taking to the sky in the above video, following direction from his human handler, Yutaka Yasui. The pair is currently under contract from the Matsuyama municipal government as part of a sanitation project that seeks to drive off the crows through non-lethal means. Originally, the city tried shining bright lights at the section of the building the crows congregate at, and it also experimented with playing recordings of a hawk’s cry, but eventually decided that an actual hawk would be more effective and contacted Yasui.
▼ Another video of the duo at work
On two separate days, the team patrolled the city hall rooftop, with Yasui repeatedly sending Sui to fly in and take over sections of the crows’ territory. According to the 47-year-old takajo (as hawk handlers are called in Japanese), crows will initially band together and try to scare off feathered intruders, and they can be seen loudly protesting Sui’s arrival in the top video. But if the newcomer stands his ground, like Sui does, eventually crows will concede the area to the stronger species.
Yasui can also be seen taking advantage of crows’ advanced learning capability and memory retention by having Sui catch and clamp down on a crow-shaped training lure. This is to show the crows that there’s a powerful potential predator present, with the aim that they’ll spread the word throughout their colony and collectively decide to relocate.
The hawk dispatch project is part of Matsuyama’s ongoing sanitation and beautification initiative, and hopes to reduce the amount of garbage left strewn on the streets when crows spot and tear into trash bags before they’re picked up by waste disposal teams. Yasui and Sui have now completed two days of work at Matsuyama City hall, with four more duty days scheduled in the coming months.
Yasui has now been working in his unique field for seven years, and actually got started in hawk-handling because of his last job. Previously, he was the superintendent of a condominium building that was having trouble with the local pigeon population, and in his search for a solution he came across Green Field, an Osaka-based hawk-handling company. He was so impressed at the job they did driving away pigeons that he decided to join the team himself, where he eventually partnered up with Sui, who he describes as “A very friendly guy.”
If you’re interested in having an avian security deployment at your home or business, Green Field’s official website can be found here.
Sources: Tele Asa News, Matsuyama City, MSN News Japan/Ehime Shimbun, Green Field
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