Bird of prey MIA

MV man's bird fights national security threat

Picture of Jeffery Diaz with a flacon

By Bill D'Agostino

   Pigeon poop is costing the war on terrorism countless dollars. And the chief solider combating the offending excrement is presumed to be lost somewhere in Mountain View.
   Natasha- a nearly 4-year-old Saker falcon - was lost a few weeks ago and his owner and trainer, Mountain View resident Jeffrey Diaz, is hoping that whoever has her will return her soon so she can get back to work protecting the country's stealth bombers from pigeon guano.
    Down at Air Force Plant 42 in southern California, lead bird Natasha - along with Diaz's other birds - saves the Air Force money by clearing pigeons away from B-2 bombers. Their next mission is scheduled to begin next week, with or without its captain.
    Pigeon stool can harm the B-2 bombers as they are being made, but Diaz could not go into the specifics about what is dangerous about it. That is classified information, Diaz said.
    Flying raptors is in a pigeon-infested area "puts the fear of mother nature" into the pigeons. Instinctively, offending birds will begin leaving an area within a few days of a falcon's arrival, Diaz noted proudly. In approximately two weeks, Diaz added, the entire flock will leave the vicinity completely. Diaz/s birds have also helped remove pigeons from a strip mall in Sunnyvale, as well as from a courthouse in Arkansas. Diaz called raptors the "most organic pest control you can get."
    The battalion is also used to help wine growers in California deal with the ever-increasing problem of starlings. Small black birds infesting California wineries.
    Diaz lost Natasha - whom he nicknamed "Sugar because she's so sweet" - while he was training her at Cuesta Park on Jan. 22.
    It was a colder then average day, Diaz said, which could have contributed to her unexpected flyaway. Natasha also wasn't wearing a transmitter; if she had been Diaz could have tracked her with a digital antenna.
    "I've lost her before and she's always come back. This time she didn't return," Diaz said. "Wild animals are so unpredictable."
    Six months ago Natasha flew away and ended up in a stranger's truck, but that person called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Natasha was returned to Diaz five days later.
    Diaz is convinced that someone in Mountain View is sheltering Natasha - her years of contact with him have conditioned her to seek out people- not realizing her value to him or the Air Force. Diaz's lanner falcon, baby
    It's the third bird of prey Diaz has lost recently; another younger, less trained falcon was lost last week. But none of them have been as important to Diaz as Natasha, who used to sleep next to his bed.
    Although Diaz and other falconers train the birds of prey to imprint on humans, they will never be as domestic as a cat or dog. Diaz Noted. "They are still wild animals."
    Diaz was raised in Los Altos and spent seven years teaching scuba diving in Thailand in the 1990s. After learning of the "leaps and bounds that falconry had come since the 1980s." Diaz decided to return to his childhood love of birds of prey (he owned 8 birds in the late 1970s and early 1980s) and moved back to California.
    To get a license to be a falconer, Diaz had to learn the art of falconry, the science of bird health care, and the federal and state laws that relate.
    A potential falconer also has to find someone to apprentice under. "He has to take you under his wing for two years," Diaz said, not saying whether the pun was intentional.
    For the last two years Diaz, 40, has been training his birds in pigeon control in various locations around the city, like Shoreline Park and the downtown area.
    Natasha, he said, was one of the first birds he purchased to start his pigeon abatement company - known as Ronin Air. She looks like an American prairie falcon, Diaz noted, with tan and white feathers. "She's the color of the desert," he said. "When she flies her wings (which measure approximately 3.5 feet when fully extended) are very pointed and they curve."
    If you have her or have seen her, call Diaz on his cell phone at 650-248-6392. No questions will be asked and no charges will be filed, Diaz said. There is a reward.