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Hawk, crows play cat and mouse overhead in downtown Portland on a nightly basis

Clive is a two-year-old Harris Hawk who has become a familiar sight at night in downtown Portland.Because it was determined that the crows must go, the man with the hawk was brought in to do the job.

So three nights a week in the heart of downtown Portland you can see Kort Clayton and his Harris haw called Clive chasing crows.

Thousands of crows are starting to show up in downtown Portland just before sundown ready to roost. By February it's predicted 15,000 of them will be calling it a night in trees in the area bounded by the Willamette River and I-405 and Burnside Street and Portland State University.

Clayton is paid by the Portland Business Association to disrupt their roost and thus keep the streets clean of their waste. This will be the third year the firm he founded, Integrated Avian Solutions, secured the contract at a reported $60,000 a year. Clayton works with three colleagues and their falcons three nights a week from October to April making sure the crows keep moving.

Clayton employs the latest technology to direct Clive to where the crows are.He took time out just before his work began in late October to answer a few questions for the SW Connection.

Southwest Community Connection: How do a few birds of prey convince thousands of crows to sleep somewhere else?

Kort Clayton: Here's the basics of it. We use free-flying predators that simulate those predators that crows encounter in the wild. Crows have a natural instinctive fear of these birds. They automatically flee from them and, given enough pressure and enough strategy, we can force them to flee from the entire core of our downtown."

SWCC: Is this like a live version of that Animal Planet show "Hawks versus Crows"?

Clayton: It is a little bit like that in how the crows see it. No question it's bad for them (being chased by a bird of prey) so long as no one tells them differently. We're good. We've got them fooled.

But the hawks see it differently and I see it differently and my client sees it differently. This is a non-lethal hazing program. We're scaring thousands of crows out of places we don't want them and no one gets hurt.

SWCC: How do you train Clive, your hawk, to just scare the crows and not start attacking them?

Clayton: It's not that he knows not to attack. We do a number of things to work against his instinct to fly them down, catch them and kill them. Most basic is the routine of how we go about this. It's basically Clive and his colleagues following their falconer around and they get little snacks along the way."

(For the record, Clayton has a pouch around his waist that contains pieces of domestically-raised Coturnix quail.)

SWCC: Where do the crows go?

Clayton: It takes a few weeks to start reshaping their behavior and changing their mind about where they want to sleep. When we get "full traction," like we did last year and the year before, there are virtually no crows in the core of downtown. They are all on the perimeters or beyond.


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