Feathered pests defy attempts to drive them off.
Contractors claim they are managing to cut the number of pigeons plaguing the Scottish Parliament by using not only hawks but also hand-held lasers to scare them away.
Animal protection groups criticised the use of lasers when they were first tried at the parliament five years ago, claiming they could blind birds.
Parliament officials insisted it was a “humane” method to deter the pigeons but would not say why it had been decided to reintroduce the lasers after apparently abandoning their use following the criticisms.
'Massive pigeon loft'
The £414 million Holyrood building has been a magnet for pigeons since it opened in 2004 and was branded “a massive pigeon loft” with lots of nooks and crannies for the birds to nest.
In monthly updates over the past year, the falconry firm, which visits the parliament up to nine times a month, reported a reduction in the number of pigeons both before and after the birds of prey were flown compared with the previous year.
A “pre-falconry” peak of 19 pigeons was reported in February, which was reduced to eight after the hawks had been flown. But most months the figures were around 12-14 before the hawks were flown, dropping to 4-6 afterwards.
The firm reported: “In addition to the hawks and falcons we have been using hand-held laser lights in the roosting areas to disrupt and dissuade them from viewing the parliament campus as a preferred site.”
Gull numbers rising
But there also seemed to be an increase in other birds attracted to the parliament.
The contractor’s report for April noted: “There is an increase in gull numbers as we are seeing species such as lesser black back and herring gulls returning to our lands in high numbers preparing for the mating and nesting season. As such the sea birds are actively looking at all suitable nesting areas which the parliament building would prove ideal.”
In September, the contractors reported a mixed group of 10 jackdaws, magpies and crows were “loafing around the site”.
And in October, the report said: “We have noted up to four Magpies around the site, two sparrow hawks noted nearby and five mallard ducks using the pond at the entrance. Duck activity being monitored for level of fouling.”
Elisa Allen, director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said lasers had to be used carefully because they could harm and blind birds.
She said: “Edinburgh’s pigeons are local residents as much as any human is and they’re entitled not to be treated cruelly, just as human residents are entitled to consideration. They have nowhere else to go, and local authorities owe it to these gentle, intelligent, family-orientated birds to employ civilised, humane management practices when dealing with any perceived nuisance.”
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “It is reaching a point when the Parliament will have to eventually accept the pigeons have beaten all the controls measures that have been thrown at them. From netting to rent a hawk to now laser wars!”
A parliament spokesman said: “Flying a hawk and using other humane deterrents successfully keeps the pigeon population down to single figures at Holyrood.”