By Victoria Martinez

Santa Ynez Valley Star


Customers of El Rancho Market may have noticed fewer birds in the parking lot in the past few weeks, and it’s not because the birds have flown south for the winter.

Falconer David Roth has been keeping the grackles away with the help of two Harris hawks, Grumpy and Eddie.

Roth, who has been involved in falconry since the age of 13, started doing falconry-based bird abatement seven years ago.

About three months ago, El Rancho Market owner Alfred Holzheu contacted Roth to see if his hawks could alleviate the store’s problem with grackles, which are black birds that are taller and longer-tailed than a typical blackbird, with longer, more tapered bills and glossy-iridescent bodies.

The store was seeing 50 to 60 grackles in the parking lot daily, and customers were starting to complain.

“It wasn’t until the grackles showed up that we had any complaints,” Holzheu said.

David Roth uses two Harris hawks to alleviate El Rancho Market’s recent problem with nuisance birds.

Roth takes his hawks to a number of locations each week, including Tajiguas Landfill, to safely prevent a variety of birds from being a nuisance. The captive-bred hawks were trained from the time they grew feathers to chase rather than kill. Roth hadn’t tried to use Grumpy and Eddie for grackle abatement before Holzheu called him, but he found out quickly that the hawks would be the right solution for the store’s problem.

Roth started bringing Grumpy and Eddie to El Rancho six hours a day, six days a week. After a couple weeks, he transitioned to four hours a day, three days a week, and now can be found at the market for about four hours just two days a week.

Holzheu says the hawks are doing their job well.

“No one has complained at all” since Roth started bringing the hawks, Holzheu said.

Roth said that the demand for falconry-based bird abatement is growing because it doesn’t involve poisoning and killing nuisance birds.

“It’s a golden age of falconry right now,” he said.

For more information, email David Roth at