Falcons take up residence at Legislative building in Carson City | NevadaAppeal.com

Falcons take up residence at Legislative building in Carson City

A pair of Peregrine falcons has taken up residence on the east side of Nevada's legislative building.

That news is both good and bad for maintenance crews at the building. The good news: the pigeons building staff has been dealing with for several years are no longer a problem.

The bad: those two birds aren't exactly tidy with the remains of their kills.

“We're trying not to be over-reactionary to this but they are making quite a mess," said Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The falcons arrived about a month ago and hang out on the fourth floor ledges outside the windows on the rear of the building.

Since then, grounds crews have had a steady amount of pigeon body parts, a squirrel or two and remnants of other kills to clean up behind the building. Not only pigeon parts but numerous feathers litter the rear of the building and falcon droppings are staining the sides of the building as well as walkways out the back of the Legislature. Grounds people used a pressure washer a week or so ago to clean things up but said the stains quickly returned.

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Combs said he and his staff are well aware Peregrine falcons, like other raptors, are protected by federal law so no one is contemplating doing any harm to the birds even though, "they are such messy eaters." The falcons are specifically listed as endangered.

All hawks and owls are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that strictly prohibits the capture, killing or possession of hawks or owls without a permit. It's even illegal to possess the major flight feathers of those birds and the penalties are stiff, potentially thousands of dollars and prison time.

For the Nevada Capitol grounds, this isn't the first experience with birds.

Years ago, it was ravens that helped keep the pigeon numbers down, eating their eggs and young.

A family of Great Horned Owls spent a decade of summers raising their young on the state Capitol grounds.

The owls and a Red Tailed Hawk that was a frequent visitor to the grounds kept the pigeons and ground-dwelling rodents and squirrels pretty much under control.

But after the hawk killed one of the owls, they stopped coming to the Capitol and the pigeon population expanded, forcing grounds crews to use a variety of tactics against them. That included a plastic owl complete with speaker that played recorded owl calls to scare them away. It didn't work and the pigeons were soon sitting around and atop the plastic owl.

Combs said his approach is to wait the falcons out.

"Once they've culled the food source, we're hoping they'll move somewhere else," he said.