You are sitting at the table enjoying your Italian breakfast on the outdoor terrace. Around you, the waves dance rhythmically and the Mediterranean vegetation glows under the intense blue sky, while the sun lights up the pastel colors that characterize the seafront promenade of Portovenere. It is one of those picture-perfect moments in your much-deserved vacation, with the aroma of cappuccino and fresh pastry igniting your taste buds.
This is possible thanks to Turbo, Inferno, Minerva and Cronos, the team of buzzards that has been protecting guests at Grand Hotel Portovenere, as well as guests at Palmaria Restaurant and Venus Bar, from seagulls.
In fact, seagulls have been a problem in seaside resorts along the Gulf of Poets and sea villages like Portovenere. Even though they are not necessarily aggressive, they tend to instill uneasiness and fear in visitors just as in local inhabitants, especially when they are eating outdoors.
In May 2017, Grand Hotel Portovenere launched the first-ever bird control operation of this kind in the province of La Spezia, in collaboration with falconer Stefano Rossi. The birds of prey are used as a non-lethal deterrent. In fact, the mere presence of a buzzard on the outdoor terrace is enough to keep the seagulls away from the surrounding area.
Turbo, Inferno, Minerva and Cronos take turns at Grand Hotel Portovenere, visiting the terrace 3 days a week for two to five hours. When they are supervising the area with falconer Stefano, their attitude and calls keep away the seagulls, who are afraid of a confrontation. The fight cannot happen, because the buzzards are not allowed to fly towards the potential meal stalkers/thieves. In other words, the bird control operation relies on the principle of instinctive fear that many species have when they see the silhouette of a bird of prey.
“Throughout the years, the presence of seagulls has become a thorny issue for a matter of decorum and safety of our guests. We know that they have learned to adapt to city life thanks to food availability and many tranquil areas where they can nest in winter months” comments General Manager Antonio Polesel. “We had to take charge of this operation to safeguard the outdoor spaces of the historic building that hosts our hotel, and to protect those who wish to enjoy a break or a meal on our panoramic terrace.”
Originally a method of obtaining food, the practice of falconry has evolved over time to be more associated with nature conservation, cultural heritage and social engagement within and amongst communities. In 2016, UNESCO included falconry in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.