Starting March 1, the seagulls that have been terrorizing the town of Rhys, Wales, will have more to worry about than just where to find the choicest bits of food — like avoiding trained birds of prey.
The Coastal Hawks Project will deploy hawks, falcons and a European eagle owl to keep the seagulls from attacking shoppers in the picturesque seaside town.
Rhys councillor Mike Espley came up with the idea after witnessing 30 seagull attacks on shoppers in one day.
“The presence of the birds of prey will be enough to get rid of the seagulls. We are not aiming to hurt them. This is their home as well as ours, but there have been far too many attacks on people. It couldn’t continue.”
Three unemployed people will be trained at the Welshpool falconry center to handle the birds, which will also serve as a tourist attraction.
“The handlers will be dressed in medieval costume and will give talks about them during the summer months and seasonal breaks,” says Espley.
Rhys officials tried a number of other seagull control methods, such as dummy eggs, with limited success.
Urban seagulls are particularly difficult to control because they produce three times as many chicks as their coastal counterparts.
Experts say culling wouldn’t work, because the gulls already fly long distances and would simply be replaced by others.
A test run last August by handler Rob Davis, who offered to supply one of his birds, met with great success.
"We simply walked out with the hawk, and the results were instant," Davis said.
"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."