Page last updated at 06:42 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 07:42 UK

Llamas act as bouncers for chicks at Merseyside reserve

Willy the llama
Llamas are gentle creatures when not under threat

Llamas have been drafted in to protect eggs and chicks of wading birds at a Merseyside nature park.

The two highly territorial camelids, called Willy and Jack, are being used to scare off predators at the Marshside reserve in Southport.

Recruited by the RSPB, the South American creatures are known for their aggressive behaviour when threatened.

Graham Clarkson, RSPB Marshside warden, hopes the llamas will keep animals such as foxes at bay.

He said: "Llamas are territorial and should chase away animals like foxes that can eat lapwing and redshank eggs and chicks.

"We hope it will make a difference to how successful the birds are this year.

"It is particularly important that they do well as the populations of these breeding birds are threatened in the UK, so we will be monitoring the outcome of this experiment carefully."

The 'boys' are a great hit with locals and visitors to the reserve
Grazier Gill Baker

It is hoped their slightly erratic behaviour, along with the groaning noises and the sound they make when afraid or angry, will be a deterrent. They are also known to spit at and attack each other when provoked, but are gentle creatures when calm.

Lapwing and redshank birds, which nest at Marshside, are among those under threat in the UK.

The llama and its relative the alpaca are already used as livestock guards to protect lambs and sheep from predators.

The Prince of Wales uses alpacas to protect his lambs from foxes during lambing season at Highgrove, his Gloucestershire estate.

Local grazier Gill Baker, who provides the cattle to graze the marsh, said: "The 'boys' are a great hit with locals and visitors to the reserve.

"They will hopefully do a great job looking after the birds and can live quite harmoniously with the cows there."

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