Bitchy

That’s the name given by Toronto FC soccer club supporters to a certain hawk. But, I’ll come back to that later. If you are old enough, you may remember the early days of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club at the old CNE stadium down by the lake. It wasn’t just the fans watching the game. All of those discarded hot dog bits, kernels of popcorn, bits of chocolate etc ensured that hundreds of gulls were usually in the neighbourhood. And they had some good vantage points in which to see the game….in the stands, on the outfield fence and even on the field.

On August 4, 1983, star outfielder Dave Winfield made headlines. He was tossing a ball around between innings when one of them smacked into a gull, dropping it dead in its tracks. Many thought that Winfield had had enough of these gulls and decided to reduce their numbers by one. Dave, of course, denied it. That didn’t stop him from being hauled down to Toronto Police 14 Division where charges were laid. “Unnecessary suffering to an animal.” These charges were later dropped but the newspapers were full of the story for weeks.

Fast forward to spanking new BMO Field which is in pretty much the same location. No gulls to be seen at any soccer game despite all of that tempting food. And we owe it all to Bitchy who is chained up on the roof and very visible! In the 1980’s, people started to realize that the presence of a hawk instilled enough fear into gulls that they stayed away. After a conversation with Bitchy’s handler, I discovered that there are actually many Bitchys, so we are not always seeing the same bird.

The type of hawk most often used for this purpose is the Harris hawk, a bird native to the south-western United States.

How about that!

Miles Hearn

harris hawk at Wimbledon

Harris hawk at Wimbledon

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