Shuswap Bird of Prey Services owner Mandy McDiarmid holds one of the Harris hawks she works with. (Romer photography)

Shuswap Bird of Prey Services owner Mandy McDiarmid holds one of the Harris hawks she works with. (Romer photography)

Longtime love of birds leads to creation of Shuswap Bird of Prey

Mandy McDiarmid provides falconry based wildlife management services

By Barb Brouwer

Contributor

When raptors are on guard, nuisance birds are quick to depart.

Mandy McDiarmid’s Shuswap Bird of Prey Services provides wildlife management at landfills, orchards and beaches throughout the B.C. Interior.

McDiarmid, whose contract with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District was recently renewed, said birds are innately fearful of birds of prey.

In business for over a decade, McDiarmid works with her two Harris hawks and one Merlin falcon. She said the type of problem birds depends on the season.

Gulls are a nuisance only in spring and summer.

“In winter we begin seeing groups of starlings, which leave in spring when they are more interested in pairing and mating,” McDiarmid said. “Crows and ravens are here all year round.”

McDiarmid’s love of birds began at a very early age when her dad who was a birder, took her to bird sanctuaries where they studied the variety of feathered inhabitants.

At UVic, where she earned a degree in biology, her a third-year course on animal behaviour became her favourite.

“I began volunteering and assisting the professor with research, became even more interested and thought about vet school,” she said, pointing out she worked at a veterinary ER and volunteered at a wildlife rehab centre where injured and orphaned animals were treated in order to release them back into the wild.

Read more: Regional district sticks with raptors for bird control at Salmon Arm landfill

Read more: ‘One of the toughest days we’ve had’: Time running out for Llama Sanctuary near Chase facing eviction

“That’s where I fell in love with raptors; they are amazing top predators with unique adaptations.”

McDiarmid began apprenticing as a falconer and worked at a wildlife centre as the head of their falconry program, where she presented educational free-flight shows with hawks, falcons, eagles, owls and vultures.

“I love my birds, they’re my family members and my favourites are the Harris hawks because they’re social in the wild,” she said. “They’re as social as wolves, they form packs, have hierarchies and are called the wolves of the sky. They really bond with you and form attachments.”

McDiarmid said wildlife management considered environmentally and eco friendly don’t need to use chemicals or pollutants or traps.

Educational encounters with the raptors with groups, schools, naturalist clubs and libraries are among the services McDiarmid provides, something she hopes will lead to their conservation in the future.


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