Ogden Point, trying to get rid of gulls, builds fake tree to attract eagles

A faux tree built to be a bald eagle love nest is standing at Ogden Point in the hopes that the big raptors will move in and scare away pooping seagulls.

Acid from the gulls’ guano is eating away at the steel roof of a warehouse, said John Briant, general manager of Western Stevedoring, which manages operations at Ogden Point.

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A “disgusting” odour wafts down from the roof, he said.

And so many feathers accumulate on the ground that it’s like standing in the midst of a snowstorm when the wind whips up.

“We’ve tried absolutely everything” to urge the gulls to go elsewhere, Briant said.

Pretend owls were installed, followed by a device with a blinking light, and motion-activated sprinkler systems went in. Nothing worked.

On the ground, gulls are spooked by tall “dancing” wind socks because of their erratic movement, he said. But the roof needed another approach.

Jacques Sirois, president of the Friends of Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary, stepped in to help.

He checked the building’s roof and found about 25 to 30 nests. Combined with birds who just drop in, he figures about 100 gulls are regularly on top of the Pier A building, which stands about 12.2 metres (40 feet) high.

Gulls like the rooftop for the same reasons people buy Victoria waterfront properties: the view and proximity to the ocean.

“It’s a gull paradise,” Sirois said.

The open space allows gulls to watch for predators, such as eagles, who also frequent Ogden Point, Sirois said.

He agrees the gulls should relocate. Others nest nearby on Trial Island and at Great Chain Island.

The potential solution is already perching atop tall light standards at Ogden Point. One pair of eagles is a fixture, although Sirois doesn’t know where they go to nest.

Eagles are running short of nesting spots in Victoria because they prefer dead trees and not many of those are left standing, he said.

That’s why a bespoke 3.6-metre-tall (12 feet) tree was constructed out of steel, with real branches attached in a style designed to mimic an eagle nest.

Eagles do not like urban environments where wires could interfere with hunting, but seem comfortable with spending time at Ogden Point, Sirois said.

It’s a little late in the season to attract eagles to nest because they’ve likely chosen another spot, but he is optimistic that the new habitat will bring them to roost this year. He’s optimistic they will nest at Ogden Point next year.

Sirois would love to see Victoria install snags (dead trees) around the community for eagles, as is done in some B.C. communities. Bald eagle numbers have been increasing, likely rebounding after suffering from the effects of the chemical DDT decades ago, which thinned egg shells and caused numbers to plummet.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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