SAN FRANCISCO - For years, the San Francisco Giants' regular seagulls co-operated so nicely: They flocked to AT&T Park after the final out to scavenge for treats like leftover popcorn, pizza or garlic fries.
Those gulls have become more pesky and plentiful of late, creating a problem for fans during games on occasion this season. So, now, the Giants are considering bringing in a resident falcon to help fend off the birds and keep them at bay out where they belong — above the bay.
"The gulls are more like your guests. They see a food source and opportunity. They're transient. There's a window of time they're around: they see it, they hear it, they smell it," said Jorge Costa, the Giants' longtime senior vice-president of ballpark operations. "Most of the time they're up on the roof of the building, on the glove (in left field), on the light towers. When people leave, they come down."
While the issue won't be solved by the time the defending World Series champions return for a 10-game homestand starting Monday, the Giants are working on it.
Bringing in a falcon to nest around the ballpark is an expensive endeavour that requires budgeting, which might take until next year. Unless the problem persists and requires immediate attention.
Costa declined to say how much it might cost. Other ballparks near the water have faced similar situations with seagulls. They even turn up across San Francisco Bay at the Oakland Coliseum after the Athletics play.
This is right up there with the strangest things Costa has dealt with and studied in his 23 years with the Giants and 40 years in the stadium business — along with such serious issues as terrorist threats in the wake of Sept. 11 and the effects of weather and how grass grows and reacts.
While the Giants have found humane ways to keep pigeons from roosting in their 12-year-old ballpark, the hovering gulls that come in from McCovey Cove and elsewhere are different. Their post-game snacking has long played a part in aiding San Francisco's extensive cleanup process in the stands after each game.
But the 2011 crop appears to be growing impatient. And fans who pay lots of money for tickets and concessions don't like to be bugged by the unfriendly visitors in the middle of a ball game.
Studying bird behaviour and various populations has become a new part of Costa's job description.
"This year we're seeing larger numbers of the seagulls, and sometimes they've not been stationary," Costa said. "There have been a couple of games this year when they've started swirling around while the game's still going on. It's not pleasant if they're dropping things and they're sitting there (with fans)."
With the help of Wingmaster Falconry Inc., which states that it works "to provide our clients with the most effective, natural, humane methods available for pest bird abatement," the Giants are exploring their options regarding the falcons.
If all goes as planned, the gulls get to the point where they can sense when the falcons are in the area and stay away.
Birds of prey have often been part of the big league scene.
The Minnesota Twins' Target Field attracted a male American Kestrel last year. He became a fan favourite and even generated a Twitter account with the username TargetFieldHawk and was named Kirby the Kestrel.
In other baseball bird news, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Thursday it was sending a thank-you note to Giants outfielder Cody Ross "for being a fine friend to the feathered."