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The Fake Hawk Of Union Square

By Amy Zimmer | June 2, 2011 4:23pm | Updated on June 3, 2011 6:50am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UNION SQUARE — Loud squawking was coming from high up on the Springler Building on Union Square West.

UPS driver Dave Carrion looked up — but couldn't see any birds.

Day after day, the UPS driver parked outside and scanned the building facade, without any luck. "Every single morning I look for the bird," he said.

Carrion didn't want to "be that guy who gets the stuff on his head," he explained.

Carrion can rest easy. The bird sounds are canned.

They come from a device that broadcasts a loop of hawks' cries to scare away pigeons, said the building's super, who decined to give his name.

"We used to have hundreds of hundreds of pigeons. I'm telling you the ledge was full of pigeons," said the super, who installed the sonic device on the second floor nearly five years ago. "It was horrible."

Pigeon excrement covered the building and often fell on passersby, he said.

Management opted for the recording device — sometimes used on bridges and tunnels — rather than using a low-voltage electrical strip on the ledge that many buildings use to shock pigeons away or the spikes, which make it "look like a jail," the super said.

He claimed it scared away 90 percent of the pigeons.

Rita McMahon, of the Wild Bird Fund, an Upper West Side-based nonprofit that rehabs birds and other wildlife, wasn't too familiar with these sonic devices.

She thought they sounded more "benign" than the electric strip or the commonly-used Tanglefoot, a glue-like material that many buildings use to trap the avian pests.

McMahon had other tips to keep pigeons away. She said that kestral shaped kites sold in Chinatown worked well to disperse pigeons as do mylar strips blowing in the breezes.

She was unsure whether the pigeons might eventually get used to the canned hawk cries.

"Pigeons are considered truly one of the smartest bird species," she said. "They are one of the few species to pass the 'mirror test,' recognizing themselves in the mirror. Just a handful of species are that self-aware."

People walking past the Union Square building are sometimes distressed or beffudled at hearing the hawk noises, which are broadcast throughout the day and into the night.

"They come in and say, 'There's a hawk stuck up there,'" the building's super said. "I explain the whole story."

The hawk sounds haven't deterred real hawks, which are often spotted across the street in Union Square Park, from visiting the building.

One time a hawk spotted a pigeon on the building and brought it back to a tree across the street where it devoured the pigeon in front of a large crowd, said the building's security guard, John, who declined to give a last name.

A hawk can also occasionally be seen perched on the building's eighth floor fire escape, the workers said.