Raptors enrolled to keep an eagle eye on estate seagulls

IT'S a drastic solution for an age-old problem.

The Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA) has employed a falconry firm to keep troublesome seagulls away from its new housing development in Goosander Place which was officially opened this week in the Western Harbour,

NBC Bird & Pest Solutions will send out hawks and falcons to keep gulls away during the nesting season, and deter them from squatting in the building over the summer.

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Scottish area manager Ian Cain said: "Gulls are very aggressive at this time of year so PoLHA has brought us in because they don't want them anywhere near their new development.

"As well as being so aggressive they also do a lot of fouling, which can cause blockages in the drains and gutters.

"Ultimately, it's a long-term investment because the gulls will be looking for a place to nest right now, and they will see this building as somewhere they've never visited before and potentially a very comfortable place to nest.

"They fly to Portugal for the winter but from about April they start coming back to Britain to lay their eggs, stay for the summer and then fly back to Portugal again in the autumn.

"However, if we send the falcons out four days a week this is enough to deter them from coming back."

NBC has also provided falconry services for the Scottish Parliament, the National Galleries of Scotland, Fettes Village and Big Yellow Storage, as well as Hampden Park.

Its contract with the Scottish Parliament was the source of controversy last year after some MSPs balked at the thought of spending 44,000 of public money on pest control.

Some also feared a "PR disaster" amid worries that the birds would be seen feasting on pigeons in front of tourists.

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However, Mr Cain said that the birds used at Goosander Place, the same ones as used at the parliament, are not killers.

He added: "None of our birds has ever killed another bird.

"Edinburgh has its own sparrowhawks which can kill other birds and leave a carcass lying behind them, and occasionally one of our birds will go and have a pick on it but they've never killed themselves. They're trained to act as a deterrent, not exterminators.

"They're actually a safer and more cost-effective way to maintain a property, as the cleaning and guttering costs associated with nesting gulls soon adds up."

The development at Goosander Place – the first affordable homes to be built in the Western Harbour at Newhaven – was officially opened on Monday by Scottish Housing Minister Alex Neil.

Port of Leith Housing Association welcomed 102 households to the block.

It is the first of four proposed affordable housing sites at Western Harbour and PoLHA has worked with Edinburgh City Council, which was able to allocate 11.3 million of grants for the development.

The council and PoLHA also worked together to ensure that some former residents of Fort House in Leith, which is scheduled for demolition, were able to access the three-bedroom properties that they need in the Newhaven area.