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Seagull-hunting hawk bullied into submission

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  • by ALAN SHEILDS
 

A HAWK called in to scare off a fishing town’s dive-bombing seagulls has been attacked by the birds it is meant to target.

The seabirds have been caught on video footage diving and swooping on the Harris Hawk, named Storm, as it sits on rooftops.

Storm was enlisted three weeks ago to rid parts of Peterhead town centre of scavenging and aggressive gulls after numerous complaints from local residents.

However, Aberdeenshire Council has hailed the three-week trial a success and it is planning more operations with birds of prey.

Heather Barclay, project officer for the town centre, yesterday described the seabirds’ fightback against Storm as “false gull bravado”.

She said: “The gulls’ natural first reaction to the hawk is to try and mob it. Storm deals with this by sitting tight and leaving them to it until they get the message that he is not impressed and doesn’t intend to leave the area.

“It may look as though he’s having a hard time, but it’s really just false gull bravado.

“They swoop in and dive-bomb a few times then gradually fly higher and further away, before slinking away quietly while nobody is looking.”

Miss Barclay added: “Feedback from local people has been very positive and we’ve lost count of the number of folk who have thanked us for doing something about the gulls.

“The atmosphere in the town has been much more relaxed.”

The council said the hawk had been used as part of three-week trial, which ended yesterday.

More seagull-scaring schemes are expected to be rolled out over the winter in the Peterhead area and they are also expected to feature the use of hawks.

Storm was called in after residents walking with food in the Drummers Corner, Broad Street and Queen Street areas of Peterhead were increasingly being harassed by herring and lesser black-backed seagulls nesting around the town .

One man even ended up in hospital after an aggressive bird swooped down and attacked his head last month.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) makes it illegal to harm, capture or damage the nests and eggs of wild birds in the UK.

So the local authority decided to enlist the help of a pest controller who started patrolling the streets with Storm, a move funded through the Peterhead town centre action plan.

Young gulls tend to be the most aggressive as they try to create a pecking order and
compete with adults for food, experts said.

It is not the first time that cheeky seagulls in the north-east have proved a tough lot to scare away.

Two “Robops” – robotic birds of prey – were unleashed in the fishing port of Fraserburgh in 2003 when the booming gull population caused a spate of problems.

But Aberdeenshire Council was forced to pull the plug on the project after the seagulls got used to the flapping fibreglass falcon – and felt so unthreatened that they started sitting next to it.

 

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