There are Owls on the London Underground

Did you know there are owls on the London Underground – and they are used to scare pigeons away? No, neither did I until recently, so I went to have a look.

Yes, there’s some – sitting on top of the platform roof at Wembley Park station.

Owls at Wembley Park station

What do they look like a bit closer? Scary buggers aren’t they!

Owls at Wembley Park station

As you might have now realised, they are all fakes, and as far as I can tell, have only been used at Wembley Park station.

While trawling the results of Freedom of Information requests to TfL, I came across a bizarre one from LibDem activist, Mark Pack asking how many fake owls have been purchased over the past five years.

Why on earth would anyone presume to ask that?

A bit of hunting later, and I learn about the fake owls at Wembley Park.

Obviously the question is – are they there to scare pigeons, or is it one of those weird art things that crop up from time to time.

Owls at Wembley Park station

Approaching one young chap at the station resulted in waiting for half a minute while he had a chat with a couple of young friends who had arrived – so I wandered over to another employee who, with a huge grin confirmed they are indeed there to scare away the pigeons.

The station has quite a problem with pigeons, probably in part due to its ticket hall design, and probably in part due to the frequent calorific detritus left behind by visitors to the local football stadium.

Hence, owls.

There are still anti-pigeon spikes in use at the station, but none where the owls were, and the lack of a) pigeons and b) pigeon muck suggests that the plan might be working.

Owls at Wembley Park station

Incidentally, the answer to the FOI request about how many more fake owls or other birds have been brought since Wembley Park station was refurbished – is none.

Maybe they aren’t quite as good as I thought?

Owls at Wembley Park station

13 thoughts on “There are Owls on the London Underground

  1. Lots of the substations on the (former BR) Southern Region have fake owls just like these. They can be seen perching on the busbars, to try and prevent birds landing, then causing a phase-to-phase flashover when they stretch their wings to take off again.

    Have a look next time you get the train to somewhere rural in southern England.

  2. There’s one at Oxford’s train station too. I had been pondering what it could be… It’s inside the station and it’s always looking at you getting off the train.

  3. I did hear that Brighton station used to have a real hawk, back in the days when a more direct approach to problem pigeons was preferred. The experiment was terminated when a pigeon carcass fell out of the rafters, where it had been stored for safekeeping, onto the concourse and incidentally the head of a passing passenger.

    Half-remembered and possibly urban legend, so reproduce at own risk.

  4. Good spot!

    I was asking about them because TfL was considering putting some in the trees which overhang the bike hire docks at the end of Whitehall. The poor choice of location for the docks means the bikes get covered in bird poo – and hence the thought of using fake owls to scare the birds away.

    The verdict seems to be that they don’t work very well (or at least for very long) so the idea was dropped.

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