Page last updated at 06:00 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 07:00 UK

Hawk plan to scare resort's gulls

Rob Davis with Freya the hawk
Handler Rob Davis said businesses could contribute to the scheme

A councillor wants to "parade" hawks through a seaside resort to scare away seagulls which he says have become a major problem for business and tourism.

Mike Espley, who represents the Foryd ward in Rhyl, Denbighshire, wants funding for a hawk to be present during summer months to act as a deterrent.

Handler Rob Davis, who has offered to supply one of his birds, said such schemes had been "proven to work".

Rhyl Town Council said there were no current plans to discuss the idea.

Mr Harris said: "Seagulls, and pigeons, are flying vermin and places like Premiership football clubs often release hawks half an hour before big games to scare away any pigeons who might otherwise deposit on paying customers."

The pigeons went straight away and the seagulls reacted very violently when they saw it
Councillor Mike Espley

"It could work well in deterring seagulls before they build nests on buildings in the town.

"It would not be expensive to run and some of the businesses may wish to contribute along with the local authority, both for deterring the seagulls and as a visitor attraction."

Mr Davis took a four-year-old American Harris Hawk, called Freya, to Rhyl for a test run on Tuesday.

Mr Espley, who joined him for the trial, said: "We simply walked out with the hawk, and the results were instant.

"The pigeons went straight away and the seagulls reacted very violently when they saw it. They became very active, hovered, then dispersed. The hawk wasn't even loose.

"It was incredible to see."

Mr Espley wants two members of Rhyl's "long-term unemployed" to be trained as handlers to parade the hawks through the town on a regular basis through the summer months.

He added: "To be effective it would have to run from 8am to 8pm, and for the hawk to be visible.

Falcon patrol

"I think we'd be looking for in excess of £20,000 a year to operate the scheme."

Phil Thomas, finance officer with Rhyl Town Council, said various different schemes to disperse seagulls had been proposed in recent years.

He said Mr Espley was speaking in a personal capacity and there were no current plans for the proposals to be discussed.

Many areas of the UK have reported increased problems with seagulls, and a falcon patrol has begun in Dumfries in the south of Scotland to disturb the birds and prevent them nesting. Harris hawks have also been used in the centre of Exeter.

Cardiff has one of the largest urban seagull populations in Britain, and it is estimated to be growing every year, with more than 2,700 pairs.

Seagull in Cardiff
Seagulls are attracted to waste food in urban areas like Cardiff

One attempt to deal with the population in the city for the last two years has been to replace seagull eggs between May and August with "dummy" eggs of similar size and weight.

So far around 400 to 500 nests have been dealt with, to reduce seagull breeding.

The gulls sit on the artificial eggs before abandoning the nests when they don't hatch.

Experts believe culling would not work as the gulls already fly long distances and would be replaced by others, while the size of the birds make shooting unsafe in a built-up area.

The RSPB has said it prefers "non-lethal solutions" such as netting to stop the gulls roosting on buildings.

The Welsh Assembly Government has said that local councils can obtain licences to control seagulls, and birds of prey can be effective in urban areas.

However, killing seagulls with a bird of prey without a licence is an offence.

Urban gulls produce three times as many chicks as their coastal counterparts and return to the same nesting spot each year.

We asked whether you have problems with seagulls where you live. Here are some of your responses.

Yes, I think something should be done very soon to reduce the number of seagulls. Where I live they seem to have increased this year- my neighbours and myself are subject to their "droppings" - on our windows and also on their parked cars on an almost daily basis. I also think the council should display really PROMINENT notices requesting folks not to feed the seagulls and pigeons, and then they should REINFORCE the notices by e.g. fining people feeding these birds. A few years ago I did request such notices; the council put up small, insignificant notices which were not at all effective. Likewise dogs on the beach during holiday time.....
AnneFawcett, Rhyl

I think all residents and holidaymakers are just totally fed up of gulls in the town. The amount of incidents involving the pesky birds swooping on people, especially children with ice cream or chips in their hand is ridiculous. Only a couple of weeks ago a young lady was chased down our street by a seagull because it thought she was going to harm its newborn. But of course, it appears our council just aren't interested in helping solve the problem. Personally, I think this idea should get trialled throughout one summer and if it works, it should keep going all year round
M, Rhyl

Seagulls are a big problem they rip rubbish bags in the town attack people on occasion, are noisy during the night and deposit there faeces all over buildings and cars which is corrosive, i think they should be culled.
r d williams, aberystwyth wales

Seagulls are a big problem they nest on urban roofs, attack children/people on occasion, are aggressive, very noisy during the night and deposit their faeces all over buildings and cars which is corrosive, I think they should be culled before they become a much more serious problem and someone gets hurt. The clue is in their name "seagulls" not "towngulls" they are sea/beach scavengers and should not be living and scavenging in urban areas. Why are they a protected species?
S Haywood, Conwy, Wales

Yes, the clue IS in the name - and if you live in a town adjacent to the sea then you're going to see seagulls. Killing every little thing that irritates us isn't the way forward.
A Jordan, Caerdydd

Herring Gulls are a terrible problem in Llandudno, they attack people on a regular basis, deposit foul faeces as a weapon and disturb me at 4am each morning. Its not safe to leave your house at the moment with huge grey marked "chicks" waddling around causing the parent birds to attack on sight. I would like to see a very clinical cull of these birds and the local council to take this matter seriously. Sadly, nothing is done and people are taking matters into their own hands. At great personal risk from attack and Legal action being taken against them.
Wayne, Llandudno, Conwy

Its a shame the Welsh assembly is not actually aware of its own laws! They signed the new general licence on 2nd December 2008 and it is valid until December 2009 (Renewed annually) providing the conditions of the licence are met, an individual does not actually have to apply for or hold one to kill those species covered by the licence. An experienced falconer who knows the law.
Mike Roberts, an experienced falconer who knows the law, Beeston, Cheshire.

Edinburgh has issues with seagulls, especially with the amount of rubbish lying around at the moment. Maybe a bird of prey would be cheaper than giving in to the bin men who are on strike.
James, Edinburgh

Having lived in both Rhyl and Cardiff, I can safely say that the Rhyl gull population is much more aggressive in its feeding tactics e.g. landing on outdoor cafe tables to snatch food from plates, and because of the lower level of buildings in Rhyl more prone to attack at hatching times. To say that there are 2700 pairs of gulls in Cardiff understates the problem given that there are 4500 pairs of gulls nesting on Flat Holm which feed in the Cardiff area. I would support a street based trial with birds of prey.
John McLaren, Cardiff

Seagulls are a pain in general, not just in Rhyl. Especially at this time of year when young birds are emerging from their nests. I have always lived in Rhyl and don't ever remember them as bad as they are today. We have a real problem with seagulls nesting inland in the town, brought in by discarded food and easy pickings from rubbish bags left out to be collected. Something needs to be done and I am all in favour of any means of getting the birds away from our town.
Barry Mathews, Rhyl

I don't think culling them is the answer. By reducing their food sources, their numbers will reduce. Councils should clamp-down on those who leave rubbish bags out too early before collection, and also on people intentionally feeding the gulls.
Tom, Aberystwyth

I live in Wrexham, which is 40 odd miles from Rhyl inland, and we have terrible trouble with seagulls in the early morning, going after the rubbish. A bird of prey would work well, and also make sure my sleep isn't interrupted!
Nick, Wrexham

People who suggest we need to reduce the level of waste left out for these birds are missing two big points. Firstly, I have seen "seagulls" opening wheelie bins. They are not birdbrains at all! If you reduce the easy pickings, attacks will increase ten fold. Secondly, stupid visitors continue to feed these animals with chips. Seemingly being unaware of the problems they are causing for the locals. I would like to see people feeding seagulls fined on the spot. One elderly lady in particular near me, walks around throwing seed to the birds each morning and it drives the birds mental in a feeding frenzy. I would like to see real action. Not words.
Wayne, Llandudno, Conwy

I feel its time we culled the people who feed these birds these birds have more right to this landscape than we do. I'm sure they've been here a lot longer and the only reason they attack is that humans don't belong here. If we didn't leave food out and feed them all the time it wouldn't encourage them to see us as a food source and attack us. I think the hawk idea is amazing its a natural way to intimidate the birds, the only trouble is when the birds bring there own version of the hawk to intimidate us. As they will want to fight back with something bigger, they're not stupid.
rich, deganwy, N. Wales

I wish we could have one here. I have four nests on the small roof of a property right outside my bedroom window and in the morning it sounds not like a dawn chorus, but more like the rainforest with screeching monkeys. With the decline of fishing boats in Ayr harbour the seagulls are moving inland to find food. I have seen them divebombing people in the street, and stealing chips from people too. I think I will suggest this idea to South Ayrshire council. Either that or I buy my own plastic hawk to stick on the roof.

Christine, Ayr, Scotland

It doesn't work. When they introduced hawks in to St Ives, Cornwall, the hawks were actually scared of the gulls. It took hours to retrieve the hawks after they had gone into hiding to avoid the gulls. People need to stop feeding gulls as they have become too reliant upon scavenging rather than hunting for food. A reduction in their numbers is becoming necessary as injuries to humans are becoming more and more common. Unfortunately this may have to be achieved through a cull.
Thomas, St Ives, UK

I have lived at my current address near the beach in Prestatyn for just over 20 years. Seagulls are part of the natural habitat near the sea BUT during the last few years the gulls are moving more inland from the sea to get food and are nesting on most of the roofs of the houses in our street- we are attacked by them protecting their young and are subject to them fouling the cars, windows etc. They constantly circle and squawk and are a nuisance. Now we have wheelie bins there has been a slight improvement but I have even had occasion when a gull tried to enter my porch to get bread from the bread bin!!! Something does need to be done and quickly, please!!!
LT, Prestatyn Wales

Aren't Wheelie Bins the answer? I'm not surprised the gulls can eat as there is so much easy pickings around. Proper bins would contain the rubbish and stop the gulls eating so much. I'd pay to sponsor a hawk.
Rich Gillett, Rhyl, N Wales

You certainly don't have to live in coastal areas to be affected by Gulls. They are a blight in Birmingham especially to anybody who lives in one of the many new High-rise flats built just before the recession. Some of them are beautiful properties but I would never live in one again as it is impossible to sleep past 4am due to the gulls. If somebody doesn't do something about it soon people will start taking matters into their own hands.
James Webb, Birmingham

Why don't Councils/ Assembly government ask the staff at the Millenium Stadium about the sucess of thier scheme. I believe since the stadium opened , they have regularly flown birds of prey around the stadium to prevent pidgeons and other birds taking up residence .
Colin Durham, Ynysddu , Crosskeys

if you stand out side mac donalds on the high street you can watch the seagulls attacking people and taking there food. and some people have been hurt. i think there should be a cull.
derek denton; , rhyl denbighshire

I wonder if someone could trace seagull numbers with the councils bright idea to collect rubbish fortnightly rather than weekly. There are a lot more sea gulls on my road during rubbish days than the rest of the week!
Sion, cardiff

Seriously people? A cull? A little example of annoyance. dogs, they drop their "presents" on my drive frequently while being walked and the owners never pick it up. Does that mean they should be culled? Badgers and Fox's tear my bins apart should they be culled? no, they are creatures which I'm sorry were here a damns ite longer than we have. Seagulls are a species and should be protected from culling. I am in favour of Hawking i think its a fantastic idea and will work without harming any birds
Joe K, Port Talbot (Aberafan)

So scare the Gulls from the seaside, where are they going to go, does this mean we're going to have yet more LAND Gulls. We have a good hundred or so living in town already, some of which I don't think have ever seen the sea, if any should be scared away, it should be the inland Gulls first, send them back out to sea...
Andrew Griffiths, Denbigh, Denbighshire

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