Sunderland’s got talon

A Harris Hawk
A Harris Hawk
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HEALTH bosses are winging it to rid hospital grounds. of an airborne pest from

Sunderland Royal Hospital has used a bird of prey to disperse seagulls, which have been scaring staff and visitors – and hampering repair work.

City Hospitals Sunderland estates officer Chris Church said: “We have used the hawk on occasion as an additional tool to conventional bird-proofing measures.”

Specialist falconers were called in to fly a hawk at the Children’s Centre, to prevent gulls establishing nesting sites on the main hospital roof.

Mr Church said that during previous nesting fledging periods, “the birds had caused a serious nuisance to staff and visitors using the front car park and main entrance.

“There had been instances of people frightened and forced to the floor, by the aggressive actions of the adult gulls protecting their young.”

This year, the external painting programme at the Children’s Centre, Durham Road, was curtailed when staff were attacked by gulls which established nests around the chimneys and roof features.

Mr Church said: “The only way we could continue with the work was to employ a specialist from Peter Cox Bird Management section to fly, in rotation, two hawks over a period of a few days.

“This kept the gulls away from the roofs to allow the painting to be completed, and the bird management firm to install netting and spikes on the features at the front of the hospital to prevent re-colonisation by the gulls.”

Falconers have also used bio-acoustics to mimic the distress call of gulls, to convince others that the hospital roofs were an unsafe site.

Hawks have also been used to disperse a colony of feral pigeons from the fracture clinic and Kayll Road block roofs.

Mr Church said: “Generally, these environmentally friendly methods of managing the nuisance caused by bird colonies is relatively an expensive option, because the effects of flying a hawk and applying bio-acoustics has a short-lived reaction, which needs to be continually reinforced to have any sort of long-term effect on the birds’ activities.”