On the Job is our occasional series exploring how people are shaped by the work they do. In this segment, we meet a professional falconer who brings his birds to a variety of job sites to keep other birds at bay.
We caught up with Kort Clayton and his bird Spencer at a berry farm where they are working to protect the blueberry crop before harvest.
Clayton started out as a hobby falconer — using his birds as hunting companions. The birds are known as raptors. In addition to falcons, he works with hawks and owls. The birds belong to Clayton, and he now spends much more time with them than he did when he only hunted with them in his spare time. Clayton is an independent contractor with Air Strike Bird Control, a company that works with farms and vineyards to protect their crops, as well as airports and waste transfer stations with bird problems.
Clayton’s trained birds dive and swoop to scare off the starlings that want to eat fruit ready for harvest or seagulls foraging for food at the dump. Falconry is a non-lethal method for controlling birds. So, Clayton’s avian co-workers don’t get to eat on the job. When they’re done for the day, he then rewards them with dead quail he buys for them to eat.
Do you work with birds or animals in your job? What have you learned from them? What would you like to ask a falconer?