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pigeon Birds of Preypigeons
By Dr. K H Frank

Many good pigeons have fallen victim to one kind of hawk or another which is a frustrating state of affairs for pigeon fanciers as birds of prey are generally protected. There has been a population explosion of them especially in Germany with its large forested areas and complete protection. What is a fancier to do? Many have given up on this hobby altogether while others let out their birds for exercise only during a few short summer months. How could the situation ever get this bad? Does nature not provide a control of the Goshawk's seemingly unlimited increase in population?

It appears that man is responsible for this imbalance at least in Germany as it was man who exterminated the Uhu (the largest eagle owl) there, the natural enemy of hawks in general. While it is true that this bird would also eat pigeons, given a chance, it hunts at night and is therefore less of a concern for pigeon fanciers than the Goshawk.

It was in 1987 when this Eagle owl was reintroduced into Schleswig-Holstein. As the number of breeding pairs of this owl increased, the number of Goshawk breeding pairs declined until a steady state was established in 2001.

The nesting of Goshawks was severely impinged upon by the nesting of Uhus who took over the territory formerly occupied by Goshawks.

The summary on the left shows clearly the inverse relationship between the number of owl breeding pairs and of the hawk breeding pairs.

There is an understandable knee jerk reaction after one loses one of one's pigeons, especially if this pigeon showed promise, but I think that it is wiser to temper this anger and try to work with rather than against nature. Remember that it was the extermination of the Eagle owl which caused us racing pigeon fanciers so much grief and I have no doubt that the extermination of another bird of prey, such as the Goshawk, would be just as short sighted. 
Original Article at "Die Brieftaube 121 (2004) Nr. 16 | 597"

Some of you, especially those living in areas without a population of Uhus, may look at the above as just a theoretical exercise. However, there is a practical side to it. Fanciers who already considered giving up this beautiful hobby of flying pigeons decided to play a tape with the sounds of this Uhu during periods when they let out their birds for exercise. This resulted in no more losses of pigeons to hawk attacks. If this system would also work in areas where the Uhu is not normally encountered remains to be seen but it would be worth an experiment.

An .mp3 file (730 Kb) or a much longer .wma file (12.2 Mb) can be downloaded (File > Save As...) from here:  

Any of these files can be burned onto a CD repeatedly, giving you an hour of protection. Some fanciers are enthusiastic about the results, one of them claiming that even magpies are not around his loft at exercise time any longer. The 24 minute file includes many varieties of different sounds made by the eagle owl.

Here is what my friend Roly, the source of the 24 minute file, wrote: "..it works too, just 30 minutes before letting the birds out is a good idea."

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