Hawk plan to tackle 'swooping' seagulls in Sunderland city centre - council chiefs hiring hawk handler to deal with nuisance birds
City leaders are seeking a hawk handler to clamp down on ‘nuisance’ seagulls plaguing Wearside.
Bosses at Sunderland City Council have advertised for a bird of prey expert in an attempt to ‘deter nesting and swooping’ in the city centre.
But a conservation charity has warned chiefs to make sure they are certain the measure will work before committing taxpayers’ cash to the scheme, as well as raising concerns about wider impacts on wildlife.
“Herring gulls, which are usually the bête noire of councils, are actually a declining species,” said a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
“I know that is hard for people to see, but away from cities the population is declining, so we always urge caution with anything that might harm a population of birds.”
He added: “The last question for the council is ‘will the work actually be effective?’ – it may just scare gulls from one part of town to another, although gulls live alongside birds of prey all the time anyway.”
The RSPB was founded in the 1880s to campaign against the trade in feathers to decorate women’s hats and gained its royal warrant less than 20 years later, in 1904.
It added cities’ problems with gulls were also often ‘problems with humans’, due to people feeding the scavenging birds or leaving food and other waste in the streets, an issue other councils have done ‘great work’ to discourage.
SCC placed an advert for a hawk handler online in December for an initial contract expected to run from February to October, although this did not include details of cost.
Councillor Amy Wilson, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “Dispersal schemes have been successfully used before by the City Council as a humane deterrent against city centre seagulls.
“Sunderland’s herring gulls are a protected species but they can be a nuisance for residents, visitors and businesses.
“A humane scheme means raptors are not in a ‘hunting condition’ and their presence acts as a deterrent.
“Subject to the tender and contract process, more details will be announced in 2020. Residents and businesses can also help deter gulls by not feeding birds and disposing of food waste appropriately.”