For at least the past 20 years, peregrine falcons have lived, nested, and hunted in Qantas’ Sydney airport hangar. The birds of prey are given free reign over the space in exchange for their fairly useful ability to keep mice, rats, and pigeons away. But this fragile truce — between the falcons and the airport staff — was almost shattered last week, when an aircraft worker was savagely gouged in the eyes by an aggressive peregrine.
The worker sustained significant damage to his eyes, neck, and face in the melee with the bird, which is thought to have become aggressive during nesting season, The Guardian reported. He “may lose sight in one eye” according to the Transport Workers Union, who has since deemed the hangar an “unsafe work environment”.
An internal safety warning issued by Qantas and obtained by The Guardian confirmed the falcon attack, and advised that staff wear safety goggles until the end of November, when the breeding season is due to end. The warning also cautioned that staff “maintain clearance from any falcon activity. If you are swooped or observe the falcon, please report the location and activity observed.”The bird in question reportedly "attacked the worker when they were in the vicinity of the falcon’s food source."Peregrine falcons, the world’s fastest animals, have been known to swoop at speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour. They’re also a protected species, meaning they can’t be forcefully removed from the premises. The Union is not asking for such measures: all they want is for workers to not have to go anywhere near the cursed hangar.“We are not calling for the birds to be removed, rather that Qantas have aircraft cleaned before the aircraft are moved to the particular hangar where these birds of prey roost and hunt,” said Richard Olsen, the New South Wales secretary of the Transport Workers Union. “[Union] members now fear for their personal safety if they are required to enter the hangars where these birds reside.”The falcon attack was the first in the hangar, according to a Qantas spokesman, who pointed out that “aircraft hangars make attractive homes for large birds due to their height and plenty of space to roost.”“It’s probably not that well known that peregrine falcons have been living in our engineering hangars at Sydney airport for at least the past 20 years,” he added. “[But] we’re making sure employees who work in and around the hangar are reminded of the falcons’ presence.”Follow Gavin on Twitter or Instagram