An historic Midlands city has recruited an army of hawks to fight off the swarms of seagulls terrorising locals.
Residents and business owners in Worcester have been plagued by gulls for years despite being 50 miles inland.
The gull population has grown so large that 11 of the city’s 15 wards have been taken over by the flying menace.
Fed-up residents say the gulls have made their lives a misery by peppering cars and homes with droppings, squawking loudly at night and dive-bombing people.
Last year dozens of brazen gulls even snatched donations left outside a food bank in the city which was closed at the time.
Now a team of hawks will fly above the city eight hours a day, five days a week, in the biggest gull crackdown the council has ever undertaken.
Four birds of prey will work in two-hour shifts as they take off from venues around the city, including the iconic cathedral, over the next two months.
They will target gull hot-spots in the city as well as residential areas of Lower Wick and Blackpole which have been overrun by the birds in recent years.
City council leader Marc Bayliss said: “Residents frequently tell us that gulls are a nuisance and in extreme cases, can regularly disturb sleep and affect their health.
“We are working hard to address this issue.
“We’re doubling our budget over the next 12 months to combat the effects of gulls and are using a variety of techniques, including hawk flying, to deter them.
“However, the gulls most common to our area are protected species and there are stringent rules which impact on the techniques we can deploy.”
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Lesser black-backed gull and Herring gulls, the two most common species present in Worcester, are protected by law meaning it is illegal to kill them.
Cllr Amos has previously called for a controversial cull to “eradicate” the gulls after claiming they have sparked a “health and safety emergency”.
In 2019 the council came close to becoming the first city in England for more than 40 years to hire a marksman to shoot the gulls.
Despite calls to apply for a special ‘gull cull’ licence, the council eventually rejected the idea.
Natural England has issued the council with a licence to use the hawks to repel the birds from the city.
The council, which spends £40,000 of taxpayers’ cash on tackling the gull problem, have also been raiding the birds’ nests.
Between May and July this year 137 nests and 233 eggs were also removed from the city’s roof-tops.
A retirement home in the Barbourne area of the city also successfully stopped birds from nesting after painting its roof bright red.
This year ten galvanised steel mesh cages were also installed on homes in the north of the city.
Despite support for the measures to tackle the gull problem, some animal lovers claim the council has “gone too far”.
Jane Burrows, 50, who campaigns for “humane” methods of controlling the gull population, said: “I am not comfortable with hawks being used in this way.
“I don’t think the spectacle of having hawks circling above the city centre waiting to pounce on these birds is humane or workable.
“These seagulls are a protected species and cannot be killed. How on earth do you stop a hawk from acting on their natural instincts?
“Everyone agrees that the gull population has got out of control but taking their eggs and nests is far more effective than relying on birds of prey.”