Hawks scare seagulls from hotels - but no plans for town-wide scheme

Martin Cattell with Leo the peregrine falcon

Martin Cattell with Leo the peregrine falcon - Credit: Archant

Two of the town’s best known hotels are protecting their guests from the scourge of seagulls by using birds of prey.

But while the Belmont and Victoria Hotels say it’s a huge success and worth the money the Town Council says there’s no prospect of hawks returning to the main part of Sidmouth.

Councillors carried out a trial in 2014 and 2015 but decided against continuing. They said it simply pushed the problem further into the town.

Christopher Holland, Town Clerk, said: “Members were pretty adamant there was very little they could do about it. You can’t control nature.

“The biggest problem is that people are feeding the seagulls or not putting their waste in bins.”

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The Council also urged residents to protect their properties by putting up netting and spikes.

Tim Beauchamp, general manager of the two hotels which are owned by the Brend Group, said the birds of prey had dramatically reduced the problem of seagulls. It costs £20,000 a year to bring them in sixty times over a six month period from February to the end of August.

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“It’s not a quick fix. They are creatures of habit and go back to the same place each year,” he said.

“It acts as a deterrent by making the seagulls a bit more wary and it’s nice for the guests to see the birds of prey.”

Seagulls will attack people when they have food and are very protective when they have chicks. They can also be a noise nuisance, waking guests up early.

Martin Cattell, NBC Environment, said: “The principle is that the birds are flown around two or three times a week to deter the gulls from nesting.”

Seagulls are a protected species. So the birds of prey don’t attack them but their presence is enough to keep the gulls away.

“The hawks are focussed on me. I’m the food provider. They are not trained to kill a seagull,” he said.

He flies a peregrine falcon and three Harris hawks. Without the hawks he reckoned there could be up to 30 chicks on the flat rooftops.

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