THE Scottish Parliament's "war" against a long-standing enemy has suffered a major blow, with the loss of one of its deadliest weapons.
• One of the hawks brought in last year to cut down on the mess made by pigeons. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Tweed, a Harris hawk, who was drafted in at a cost of 44,000 to scare pigeons away from the Holyrood building, has gone AWOL.
He is understood to have moved to Salisbury Crags, near the parliament.
Since its completion in 2004, the 400 million parliament building has been plagued by dozens of pigeons, which roost in the air-conditioning vents and on window ledges.
The clean-up bill for the mess left by the "winged vermin" runs into tens of thousands of pounds every year.
But yesterday, the parliamentary authorities were forced to admit that one of the their birds of prey, which they hoped would end the problem, had apparently given up the fight and flown off.
It was unclear whether, after six and a half months of effort, the eight-month-old hawk had got fed up of the edict that prevented him from actually killing any pigeons.
The ruling was imposed as a condition of the hawks, work to make sure visiting schoolchildren were not upset.
The deal to bring in the hawks was secured last year by NBS Bird and Pest Solutions after other moves, including relocating some pigeons to Ayrshire, had failed.
Since last summer, Tweed and his fellow birds of prey have been seen several times a week flying over Holyrood.
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said yesterday: "Regrettably, one of our contractor's hawks has gone missing.
"However, this does not affect the cost or conditions with the contractor who supplies this service.
"The falconry contract is helping us deal with our pigeon problem and seven other birds of prey continue to be flown at Holyrood.
"In the long term, we fully expect to see a reduction in the money we spend on external cleaning as a result of pigeons being deterred from the parliament building."
In a report before the decision was made, parliament officials warned, under a section headed "The Risks", that they had assessed the use of three different birds, a red-tailed hawk, a Harris hawk and a Saker falcon, and said: "Both hawks were successful in flying to high points.
"The red tail was good at getting into some of the nooks and crannies, but often had problems on landing, failing to stop, and on one occasion flew into the windows of the members' restaurant."
However, the report failed to identify the possibility of Tweed going native.