Bird ‘bouncers’ to scare off seagulls in Sidmouth

Pictured at East Devon District Council's seagull summit are Councillor Tom Wright, environmental he

Pictured at East Devon District Council's seagull summit are Councillor Tom Wright, environmental health officer Janet Wallace and Jonathan Marshall, from Experience Falconry UK. - Credit: Archant

Bird-of-prey ‘bouncers’ are set to be deployed to scare seagulls from Sidmouth town centre.

The ‘novel and humane’ idea will see the resort join forces with Exmouth and Seaton in a £15,500 project to hire a falconer for a one-year trial.

It is hoped the birds will deter gulls and pigeons and entertain tourists.

The move will coincide with a bid to urge residents and visitors to think about how they dispose of food waste which attracts gulls.

An application has been made for Parishes Together Fund cash available to councils who team up for community projects.

Sidmouth Town Council clerk Christopher Holland said: “All three towns have applied to use Parishes Together money to fund the management programme of using specially bred gull hawks to discourage gulls from nesting in the targeted areas.

“It’s a new and novel approach but also a humane way of moving the gulls on.

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“They will not nest where these huge birds of prey are circling overhead.

“Brend Hotels employed a hawk some time ago but here we have a number of birds on hand who will be visiting every week and spending time in all three towns during the nesting period.

“In conjunction with increased information for visitors and residents to help prevent food waste and rubbish from attracting gulls and general education over what is part of seaside life, the towns hope to manage the issue of gulls.”

Jonathan Marshall, from Experience Falconry UK, told Exmouth Town Council earlier this month: “Herring gulls are globally a threatened species. In small pockets they are a nuisance. We feed them, we are messy, leave chips everywhere and they make the most of it.”

Mr Marshall added that the main problem is the bugs the birds carry - like E.coli and botulism - and outdoor eating establishments had a ‘responsibility’ to tackle the problem.

“We want to stop Exmouth, Seaton and Sidmouth from turning into a colony and to chase them away without killing them,” he said.

“We want visitors to have a good time and the last thing we want is for them to go home traumatised because they have seen a gull ripped to pieces.”

He said that people’s behaviour had given gulls a ‘bad name’ and added: “They are magnificent birds and it’s a shame we have to label them with our filthy habits.

“We are not here to kill gulls, we are here to stop them from nesting.”

The application will be considered by the district council.

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