The Falcon that Failed 1970s

Hunting with Falcons is a traditional sport in Dubai. So is keeping pigeons. With Dubai's growing population and an ever increasing food supply, Dubai's pigeon population grew rapidly until they became a general nuisance, a danger to road traffic and harmful to stored foodstuffs. But how to control this growing pest? This story is about how these traditional sports were set against each other to solve a pigeon problem in 1978. Was it successful??

Dubai's tradition of keeping Pigeons


Pigeon Lofts were a common sight in Shindaga in the early 1970s. Small flocks of pigeons flew over Shindaga. They were not a problem. That changed in 1976! National Flour Mills began importing grain for their Flour Mill. Located next to the "Falcon Roundabout" but inside Port Rashid, these Grain Silos were connected to the Flour Mill by an underground conveyor system.

Bulk Grain Ships began arriving in Port Rashid. Their grain was discharged into open trucks, transported to the silos and dumped into an open hopper. Grain leaked out of these trucks as they drove around the Port. Soon Port Rashid's Roads were covered in grain. Shindaga's pigeons now had an almost unlimited supply of food which continued to grow when Dubai's Merchant began speculating in rice. Bagged rice arrived at Port Rashid intended for re-export at an ever increasing price. Then world rice prices collapsed. Port Rashid Sheds were full to overflowing with unsaleable rice. Dubai's Merchants decided to wait for the price of rice to rise. The local pigeons moved in to Port Rashid's Sheds to live off the stored rice.

Pigeon Expert's Advice

1. Size of Pigeon Flocks is governed by amount of food available
  i.e."More Food = More Pigeons, Less Food = Fewer Pigeons"
2. Pigeons breed at a faster rate than they can be killed
- a female pigeon can hatch 2 chicks every three weeks throughout the year. e.g. A 10,000 pigeon easily maintains its numbers even if several hundred birds are killed each day.

Shindaga's Pigeon population boomed. Flock numbers rose to an estimated 10,000 birds. Stored rice was ruined by pigeon droppings. They damaged the rice bags to get to the rice. These pigeons were now over fed and fat. They had difficulty in flying and even more difficulty in taking off! Cars, trucks and buses began to collide with overweight, "not quite" airborne pigeons. Something had to be done!! Then someone suggested a Falcon. "Birds move away from areas where Falcons fly" said the Experts. So Port Rashid bought a Falcon!

Solution = One Falcon

Training a falcon is not an easy or quick task. One of Port Rashid local staff said he had trained Falcons. He was asked to buy a Falcon chick he could train. He did - at a price - Falcons are not cheap. Training a Falcon requires close personal attention for a long period. A special Falcon House was built for the Falcon Chick. Port Rashid's Trainee Falcon became a regular sight being driven around Port Rashid perched on the passenger seat of his Trainer's old Mercedes Benz.

Eventually this expensive Falcon was ready to be put to the test. The Trainer took the Falcon out of its "Falcon House" into the Port at a time when the Pigeons were feeding. Everyone gathered to watch. The Falcon was released. It flew to the highest point it could find - on top of one of Port Rashid's lighting towers. It stayed there awhile, searching for prey, then took off, swooping down into the flock of pigeons, turning, twisting and changing direction quicker than the onlookers could follow. Falcon took its prey cleanly in the air then flew low back to its Trainer as it had been taught. The Falcon's prey lay dead on the ground. Everyone moved closer to see - a very large dead Seagull!.

The pigeons went about their business unconcerned and unhindered.

Port Rashid's Accountant updated his Asset Register to read.

Item:   One Falcon
Purchase Price   DHS 25,000
Status   Surplus to Requirements
Current Value   Nil
Action   Disposed as Scrap Material