Call for rethink over birds of prey at Holyrood

Hawks at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Hawks at the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Holyrood officials have been urged to think again about their decision to spend £80,000 on using birds of prey to scare pigeons away from the Scottish Parliament building over the next five years.

Holyrood officials have been urged to think again about their decision to spend £80,000 on using birds of prey to scare pigeons away from the Scottish Parliament building over the next five years.

Hawks and falcons are brought in regularly to fly over the parliament to deter pigeons from making it their home. But MSPs claim the pigeons have become wise to the practice and now simply wait for the birds of prey to leave with their handler before settling back on the roofs and ledges of the £414 million building.

The parliament has renewed its maintenance contract – of which the birds of prey are now a part – for another five years with a possible two-year extension.

Overall pigeon numbers are thought to have been reduced as far as they are likely to go, but the parliament believes the hawks and falcons are necessary to stop them increasing again.

However, Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs, a member of the cross-party animal welfare group at Holyrood, said it was time for a rethink on spending so much money on a bird handler coming to Holyrood.

“I don’t think they have looked at how effective it is actually being,” he said. “For a lot of building users it has become a bit of a joke. The pigeons are sitting up on Arthur’s Seat waiting for him to go away. The pigeons seem to be quite bright.”

The Holyrood building was plagued by pigeons even before it officially opened in 2004. Muck and feathers were blown through vents on to researchers’ desks and some birds even got into MSPs’ offices.

The cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, which oversees the building, brought in birds of prey as a deterrent nine years ago.

Mr Briggs said: “When the MSP office block was first built there were so many nooks and crannies it was like a massive pigeon loft, but that has all been netted off now.

“That probably had more effect displacing the pigeon population than the man coming to fly his birds of prey.

“The corporate body needs to review this decision and whether it’s an effective use of taxpayers’ money.”

Monthly reports by the contractors to the Scottish Parliament claim between 50 and 65 per cent of pigeons are dispersed during their presence on site. But the numbers seem to return to roughly the same level after they have gone.

A parliament spokesman said: “We are aware the problem can never be fully eradicated and we will continue with the current approach.”