The day after I photographed this big-eyed beauty perched in a tree next door to my Silver Lake yard (click to biggify), word of this story reaches me. As if I need more proof that humans suck supreme, authorities have charged a ring of seven southland men belonging to “pigeon clubs” with killing untold numbers of falcons and hawks annually, all to protect their preciously inbred Birmingham Roller pigeons that they raise and keep for use in bird races.
From the cb2.com website:
The charges stem from an investigation in which a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent infiltrated several California pigeon clubs, leading investigators to estimate that organizations in the Los Angeles area alone are behind the killing of 1,000 to 2,000 raptors each year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The pigeon enthusiasts, who raise and fly a special type of the bird that “rolls” mid-flight and therefore is especially prone to attracting predators, would allegedly use backyard traps to snare Cooper’s hawks, which hunt on the ground. They then used sticks or pellet guns to kill the hawks, according to prosecutors.
At other times, they would shoot Peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks out of the air above their backyards with shotguns or rifles, authorities say.
One of the suspects has been identified as Juan Navarro of Los Feliz, the president of the National Birmingham Roller Club (NBRC). A U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service undercover agent contends Navarro claimed that he killed one raptor a week and had a five-gallon bucket filled with the talons of hawks he slaughtered.
What an alleged bastard motherfucker.
Ironically on the NBRC website is a “President’s Memo” from March that Navarro opens with this:
“For many of us, we have had to curtail the flying of our rollers due to predator issues during the fall and winter months. I personally am now limited to flying five months out of the year. Keeping the birds locked down for seven months is not a lot of fun, but it has become a way of life in the area that I fly in.”
Or a way of death.
UPDATED (5/25): After the jump you’ll find some of the various pigeon club members’ message board and newsletter goings-on in regards to raptors.
So I was searching around the NBRC website to find they’ve circled the wagons and shutdown any opportunity to contact them:
“As you may have probably heard in recent news, several members of the NBRC are being investigated for alleged violations of the migratory species act. The NBRC does not condone nor promote such activities and as such cannot comment on the actions of these individuals. We hold true to the ideals of due process before making judgements and as such will not speculate any further on the matter.
Due to the recent flood of messages regarding this news, we have had to shut down this part of our website until the matter is resolved. If you are a member and need to contact anyone for additional assistance, please find the email of the person in the latest NBRC Bulletin. Thank You.”
So I went snooping around via whois and Google and such — nothing fancy — and found my way into various club websites’ message boards and newsletters where I scanned some of the topics and found the following comments about how certain members “deal” with raptors.
1) On the NBRC message board “Roland” of Lakewood, Calif., writes Feb. 12, 2007: “The falcon that was taking my birds will no longer take them any more, I’m 150% sure of that. Maybe another one will come for a short time only.” He closes with an evil looking emoticon.
2) It’s pretty tame with only a hint or two implying harm to raptors but here’s an article by suspect Juan Navarro on the Birmingham Rollers of Austin website providing details and insight on how he and his birds were devastated by raptors after moving to Los Feliz and what he’s done to adapt.
3) My favorite one. The Southern California Rollers Association website still has its March 1999 newsletter online whose lead item is headlined: “Predator Attacks Spoil Spring in L.A.,” and which closes with the following:
Fanciers have been able to trap some Coopers Hawks using wire traps, but the only defense against the falcons have been “heavy artillery” (if you know what I mean). On one visit to a fancier’s loft, I felt as if I was in Vietnam as he fired several shots into the air trying to hit a falcon that was ripping his kit apart.
Walking near his loft, one could trip over the piles of bullet shells spread throughout the yard.
For those of you who are flying “Predator-Free”, please keep your Los Angels colleagues in your prayers and enjoy your kit… “You don’t know how good you’ve got it, until it’s gone.”